"She will depend on herself!" A tenacious young woman shares her journey

Saleema, a confident student of Class 8 at one of Impact(Ed)'s partner schools in Northern Kenya, is a young woman whose life embodies tenacity.

Saleema's father died when she was barely two years old. This caused financial hardship for her family, leading her mother to take on the role of sole provider and caregiver for two young girls. But despite her challenges, Saleema’s mother was committed to helping her daughters complete their education. Her eldest just finished secondary school, and Saleema is one of the top students in her class.

Saleema and her family live in a region that has long struggled with educational opportunities for local youth, especially girls. Some of the obstacles girls face here in obtaining a quality education include lack of resources and materials, early marriages, lack of proper hygiene facilities in schools, and social norms that limit girls’ progress. She attends a school supported by the Discovery Project, an Impact(Ed) initiative across Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria to improve educational opportunities for marginalized students, particularly girls. The Discovery Project is funded by UK DFID's Girls' Education Challenge, a global effort to support girls' education.

Despite her life challenges, Saleema is always among the top five students in every class exam. She is also chairperson of her school's girls' club, called Lilies of the Valley -- facilitated by the Discovery Project to help girls build self-confidence and learn essential life skills. She credits the club with helping her overcome shyness and fear of speaking her mind.

"(The club) has made me responsible, and confident in talking about fear. It gave me encouragement and reduced my shyness," she said.

Saleema's club mentor, Jamila Abdi, who was trained by Impact(Ed) in teaching girls skills such as self-advocacy, entrepreneurship and public speaking, describes her as, “a confident girl who knows what she wants.”

“She shares her ideas freely, and helps her peers when they encounter any disagreements with one another,” Abdi said. “Due to her character which endears her to other girls, she became a role model for other girls...She [is] inspirational and destined for great things in the future.”

Saleema values Jamila’s guidance in leading the girls’ club. For her and other girls in the club, having a female leader explain the importance of girls education and empower them to conquer their fears has been transformational.

“She [Jamila] is our friend. We share our problems with her and she solves our problems immediately after we tell her,” Saleema said.

Saleema is passionate about learning and becoming an independent woman when she enters the professional world. She is particularly interested in news and journalism, and has decided to become a reporter after school. She said, “I want to be a reporter because I want to tell people what is going on in and outside the country.”

She also believes it is extremely important for all girls to attend school so they can become self-reliant.

“When you educate a girl, when she finishes her education, she is going to get a job and that job will help her family and herself,” she said. “She will be no longer in somebody’s hands…she will depend on herself!”