One girl associated with SOS has definitely been thinking big, and she has already seen big results. Gloria Hope Mugambi, a Kenya Keys’ sponsored student in her third year at Kenyatta University, was recently recognized by the United Nations Environment Programme for her innovative solution to help both the environment and girls in her village. Gloria uses recycled plastic bags to make purses, laptop cases, and other products.
And she hasn’t stopped there. She taught the girls in the SOS club how to make these items. By selling the purses, this group of young female entrepreneurs is able to raise funds for school fees for girls who otherwise might not get an education. Gloria was applauded for her innovative project, which addresses environmental needs, economic enterprise, and girl empowerment. She joined other envoys in Germany in October, 2012 to receive her award, participate in workshops and site visits, and further explore sustainability opportunities.
Since returning from Germany, she has continued her education and has been employed by the Kenyan government to perform environmental studies. Despite her busy schedule, she travels to Taru often to speak to and mentor younger girls in the region. She tells them that great things can come from small actions so they should “never despise humble beginnings.”
Just because the girls in rural Kenya aren’t given many opportunities to let their voices be heard doesn’t mean they don’t have important ideas to share. When given the chance to express themselves, Kenyan girls reveal their understanding and insight.
One girl expresses the fears of many Kenyan girls when she says: “I am afraid of men. Most of the men in the world are the same. They are not to be trusted at all.” Sadly, this is what their circumstances teach them from a very young age. And they begin carrying heavy family burdens when they are still children themselves. Another girl writes: “I am afraid of not taking care of my sisters and brothers since they depend on me as the breadwinner of the family. I want them to feel as if I am their mother and will guide them well.”
The SOS girls are such a powerful force for good because, in addition to their insight, they also have great hope and courage. They know that they are doing something remarkable. They have found a way to respond to their challenges with determination. One girl says, “I am afraid of having my dreams vanish and not making my family proud of me. I want to show the world that girls can do what men or boys do, without fear or hesitation.” Another encourages her peers: “Have courage to face any challenges in front of you because your life is in your hands, you can either mend it or crush it.”
These remarkable girls also have a sense that they are doing something with implications far beyond their tiny villages. One girl says, with unshaken hope: “Girls, we are capable of changing the world. No one should look down upon us because we are young. We have a voice. We can influence change.” She is echoed by another girl who tells girls: “This is our chance as girls to spell out our dreams, so let’s think BIG.”