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Ivy addresses Binti Shupavu Scholars at Kaganda Secondary

“The Journey of our Life” Meet the Binti Shupavu Mentors in Kenya

This fall, Daring Girls introduced you to our newest partner, CWE-TECH, the Centre for Women Empowerment in Technology. Based in Kenya, CWE-TECH is the first partner outside Tanzania to pilot the Binti Shupavu mentoring program. Daring Girls and GLAMI have collaborated to provide training and technical assistance, as well as funding, to contextualize the curriculum for the needs of girls in the Murang’a County area of Kenya.

Ivy Nyambura and Harriet Richman are the two mentors that CWE-TECH hired to implement Binti Shupavu. Working in two schools, Ivy and Harriet serve as mentors to 69 total girls enrolled in their first year of this pilot, after receiving in-person and online training in the Binti curriculum from Daring Girls’ Tanzanian colleagues Devotha Mlay (Daring Girls Program Consultant) and Aikande (Aika) Muro (GLAMI MEL Coordinator).

Daring Girls invited Harriet and Ivy to join us for a conversation on Instagram Live to learn about their experience so far: what led them to become mentors, what reactions have been so far to the program implementation and what changes they’ve noticed already in their scholars – and in themselves.

Scroll this post for transcribed interview highlights, or skip to the bottom to watch the full recording.

How did you come to work with CWE-TECH and Binti Shupavu?

Ivy came to know Dr. Judy Makira, the CWE-TECH Co-Founder and CEO, after university when she participated in a program Dr. Judy led that mentored youth with digital skills. “I met her during that program. I stuck by her and she was able to mentor me in digital skills. I came to hear about Binti Shupavu when she announced about a program that they want to do in schools, and I was very interested. I applied, and of course, having been in CWE-TECH and knowing how to maneuver around CWE-TECH, I was able to now join the Binti Shupavu program,” said Ivy.

Harriet and Ivy had known each other for some time, and Ivy shared the opportunity to apply for the Binti Shupavu Mentor position. Harriet applied, and got the job – and it’s been a great experience for her so far: “I think my journey with mentoring girls comes from that desire to be mentored as well. You know being a first born daughter in a family of three girls, I have just experienced how much girls need mentorship. And to have an opportunity to be that person who works with a girl, you know, beyond the teachers who do a great job and the parents who do an amazing job, it is quite an honor and it really has given me purpose,” said Harriet.

Harriet mentors Binti Shupavu scholars at Mirichu Secondary.
Harriet mentors Binti Shupavu scholars at Mirichu Secondary School.

What was it like to be trained to become a Binti Shupavu mentor?

Ivy: “When we started our training, we met with Devotha (Daring Girls) and Aika (GLAMI) who were very welcoming and very nice. They enlightened us about what we were supposed to do. Before we started the training, friendship was built, we resumed to training, and we were able to know what to do. Let me say it’s been an amazing journey whereby we feel if we need any help, Devotha is always a call away. Aika is always a call away. They have been more than just friends. They are sisters and who have been mentoring us to mentor other girls as they have been doing in Tanzania.”

Harriet: “[At the beginning] we were very scared. You know, we are wondering how to stand before these young girls. [Devotha and Aika] taught us what mentorship is all about. We were told about what teaching is, and they differentiated between teaching and coaching. We were told that mentorship is a journey and you need to work with [girls] continually, you know, and so it was quite scary at first! But [Devotha and Aika] modeled what we were expected to do. You know, first build a friendship, first build a relationship with the girls.

I’d like to say thank you so much to Aika and Devotha. They have really been an amazing support system. Every time we go [to Binti classes] we come back home with questions. And, and you know what they used to tell us: don’t worry, I am a call away. I’m, I’m a text message away. …I really want to appreciate the support system that we have had because it is them that have kept us going to get here, where we are.

Photo from the in-person CWE-TECH training in April, 2003. L-R: GLAMI MEL Coordinator Aikande Muro, CWE-TECH mentors Harriet Richman and Ivy Nyambura, and Daring Girls Program Consultant Devotha Mlay

Which Binti Shupavu lessons have been your favorite to teach so far?

Ivy: “I go to Kaganda Secondary School. It’s a place that has a lot of tea plantations, so the place is very cold. I go to a secondary school that is a day school, has both boys and girls. In my class there are about 50 girls. We’ve been able to cover personal motivation, something that have seen the girls grow in confidence when we cover that topic. We’ve also covered about menstruation and hygiene, something that has also very much helped the girls to improve, especially in their hygiene. Right now we are covering study skills. Something that is very passionate to me because it is my journey to see the girls be able to prosper even in academics. Being able to mentor them in study skills at this level is something where I feel we take them a higher place that they would not have achieved without a mentor.”

Harriet: “It’s been amazing just to do this program. My personal favorite topic has been health and wellness because of the curiosity of the girls. …It’s been interesting to just see how curious they are to learn, to learn what the world has to offer, to know all these things about the menstrual cycle and even the products that are used for menstruation. And even just to get the confidence. One of the things we got to know is that girls used to feel like they cannot share. They cannot share, for example, when they need pads, they cannot tell their parents, you know, they feel some kind of way. So just being able to work with them and build confidence in such things has really been amazing. And I’m grateful for that.”

Menstrual Hygiene Day at Kaganda Secondary
Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2023, at Kaganda Secondary School.

How have the girls’ parents and caregivers reacted to Binti Shupavu?

Ivy: “It’s true that we’ve seen change and impact during the program with the girls because of the fact that a parent will call you and tell you something is going on with their child. They’re very confident to present that to you, and shows a lot that the program is really liked by the parents. And also even the girls are coming up and saying that they have a better relationship with their parents.”

Have you noticed any changes in your Binti Shupavu scholars since the start of the program?

Harriet: “Two months down the line, we started hearing comments from the administrators and the teachers, telling us: We are noticing changes in the girls. You know, you guys, you’re doing something good with these girls. They’re noting change in the behavior of the girls in terms of discipline and their focus on studies.

We’ve also noticed a lot of change with the girls. Like, for example, the first time when we came to introduce the program to the school – the entire school – we met all the girls. The girls were just, you know, laid back. They kind of didn’t want to talk. You ask a question, it would take a lot of time for them to answer, you could see they have the answer, but not the confidence to actually say it. They just hold back.

And so after a few months down the line, we went for Menstrual Hygiene Day and we were passing out pads and all that. One of the things we noticed is that we did the same school assembly that we had done, meeting all the girls and the boys. The young girls from Binti Shupavu, they were on the front row, and when a question was asked they were the first ones to lift up their hands and say, yes, they have the answer. You know? And that was so, so encouraging to notice that change.”

As you’ve worked to localize the curriculum to the needs of girls in Muranga County, what types of challenges are you focusing on helping girls overcome?

Harriet: “Well, when we heard the, the program is from Tanzania, one of the things we had to do is conceptualize it to the kind of a society that we have here. [Many] girls have been abandoned, but also boys as well, where parents have left and they’ve gone to Nairobi and they’ve left their daughters and sons here. It’s really, maybe I can say, sad, but the encouragement is to know that what we’re doing here to mentor these young girls is going to impact the next generation. Because I love to think that once a girl is mentored, once a girl is empowered, an entire generation is saved because girls grow on to be women who build the society, who build their homes, and they bring up children. …You get to encourage these girls to do well in school and show them that there’s, there’s more to life than this, that you can do better, you can actually excel regardless of the situation that you are in right now.”

We hope that in the, by the end of four years, we are going to be hearing great and amazing things. We are going to be seeing these girls are growing up to be amazing young women, and we, we are looking forward to, you know, releasing them to the society to do the good and the great they have been born to do.”

Ivy mentors her class at Kaganda Secondary School.

How has becoming a Binti Shupavu mentor changed you?

Ivy: During our training, Devotha told us that even as we begin this mentorship program that we’ll find ourselves growing. At that time, we couldn’t really understand what she meant. But now being able to go and speak to the girls every time, you get to see that you make even closer friendship than sisterhood. Now I have 50 sisters right now. …I feel it has been a growth journey for me being able to see girls transform from how I would have wished to be when I was in their age, especially in terms of confidence, in terms of wanting to perform well in their studies. I’ve been able to see others grow, and it makes me even want to grow and become even a better person, so that they can be able to look at me and say, yes, I would want to be like Ivy. …I think that’s one of the things that I really appreciate about it, that you even grow as yourself, even as you mentor other girls.”

Harriet: “I feel that this opportunity has really given me a chance to just connect with my purpose. You know one of the things that we got trained about was about being vulnerable when you’re mentoring. You have to be vulnerable, and the point of mentorship is you get to work with someone in their journey, but you cannot work with someone when you are holding back on your own journey, you know? So having to share my journey, how it has been for me in my life, and still getting to inspire these girls has really been amazing to get to share, you know – the beautiful and the ugly as well – and still have these girls look up to you, them opening up and sharing. Teenagers have a lot of things going on in their lives. Having them to get to that place where they are actually opening up has really been, has really been something good for me. …Being there to hold someone’s hand is, is quite the journey of our life. You know, I’m really grateful.”

Watch the entire Instagram Live conversation here:

Photos by Neyvic’s Photography.