Every Monday afternoon at WISER the girls can be found sitting in circles under trees or around various corners of the campus. They group themselves according to their ‘Houses of Wisdom’ (peer support groups) and hold lively meetings where a different theme is selected each week. The girls discuss everything from shaving their armpits and what length their skirts should be to sexual violence, early marriages and HIV/AIDS.
Spaces where girls can candidly share their experiences and views are a rarity in rural Kenya, yet they are such an important vehicle for personal growth and transformation. As Lavender, a Form 4 student, put it, “I was very shy in Form 1. House meetings have helped me to become a good public speaker and to have the courage to speak in front of bigger groups.” Other girls cite becoming more principled, spending their leisure time productively, more effective problem solving, and relating better to one another despite differences as benefits of these gatherings. Most importantly, House meetings give girls a voice in a community where female opinions are traditionally seen as secondary to those of their male counterparts.
The bouts of laughter and heated debates that ensue during meetings are a testament that the girls have become wildly more self-confident. They have the gumption to challenge one another, a skill which is seemingly lacking from the Kenyan school system. They recognize the power of having a voice. This was entirely reaffirmed after the very first Houses of Wisdom meeting that I ever attended when one of the girls approached me and confidently announced, ‘I want to tell you my story.’
-Liz Moran, WISERBridge Director