Reaching Out June 12, 2010 by Carolina For Kibera
From CFK 2010 Fellow, Maggie McDowell:
I had the privilege this morning of going to a community outreach event with the women of Binti Pamoja. This is designed to recruit other girls in the community into Safe Spaces groups and continue to spread the female empowerment that Binti so powerfully creates. There are currently over 600 girls in the program from every village in Kibera.
I saw immediately why they asked me to come along: help with physical labor! We started by hauling two giant speakers, a stereo and a pile of extension cords to a spot in Gatwekera village. A very nice boy with a wheelbarrow piled our speaker in and helped us down one particularly treacherous hill. Once we got there, Petit, one of the Binti girls who’s helping me with the art project, declared the place unacceptable. It was small, hilly, and not in the center of things; for outreach, she explained, we needed to be the center of it all. So what do you do when your space doesn’t work? Petit marched over to a neighboring guy she’d met one other time, and told him we were going to use the area in front of his shop. He nodded, agreeing tacitly. Between this man and the wheelbarrow boy, I was beginning to believe that these girls could get anyone to do anything.
We left Arafat to do the tech work for us (repeat: they can get anyone to do anything..) and arrived back at Binti, where girls from three different Safe Spaces groups were giggly and ready to go. The group names, by the way, are the Little Saints, the Believers, and the Achievers. Awwww. Then we had the most fun I’ve had since coming to Kenya. It was parade time! All 50 or so of us marched up and down the Kiberan roads, the hazards of which I’ve already documented. Somehow, though, the obstacles mattered less today, or they moved out of the way when they saw us coming. The girls up front held the Binti banner, and everyone chanted, sang, and danced, getting plenty of attention from everyone. That was, after all, the point! I understood exactly 3% of the words we chanted, but I made up the meaning in my head to the best of my ability and made sure to keep smiling.
After a delightful set of hills (the only workout I’ve had since coming here…) we got to the spot we’d picked, and the real outreach began. The Safe Spaces groups performed the dances they’ve been practicing and dramas they had rehearsed (the content of these dramas is honestly a mystery to me, but there were lots of great facial expressions involved).
The crowd that had gathered was really excited about everything going on in the circle, and some of the kids got into a heated dance contest.
I don’t know how many other people got recruited this morning, but I certainly did. They might even get me to dance eventually (they tried during the contest, but I politely declined). I’m amazed every time I visit Binti by the work that they do, the broad range of issues they deal with and the amount of fun they have.