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Zain, a peer educator aspiring to empower other girls

March 15th, 2022

Zain, 25, lost her mother when she was six years old, prompting her to be in the care of her grandmother. Unfortunately, when she was in form 4, her grandmother was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Regrettably, her relatives only focused on taking care of her ailing grandmother. Zain was left alone with no one to care for her and was sexually exploited.

Childhood life

Life for Zain has not been easy. In 2002 when she was six years old, her mother died after a short illness. Following her mom´s death, she went to live with her grandmother, a casual laborer who depended on washing clothes as a source of income. In a day, she could get an average of Eur 1.6, though, this was not enough to cater for the family needs. Occasionally, Zain and the family would only have one meal per day (supper). Around 2001, Zaini managed to join a local orphanage primary school for her nursery education. She was later transferred to another school in 2007 where she sat for her Kenya Certificate of Primary Education in 2010. Despite the challenges, her school performance was very impressive. 

In 2011, she joined a nearby day secondary school through the support of a good Samaritan who offered to pay the school fees. Unfortunately, when she was in form 4, her grandmother was diagnosed with stage four cervical cancer. Day by day, her grandmother´s recovery became very limited. Regrettably, her relatives only focused on taking care of the ailing grandmother. Zain was left alone with no one to care for her. ¨I felt that the world was so unfair to me, first, my parents died, then the only person whom I knew as my parents also passed away, this was almost my breaking point, my world had collapsed.” Zain explains.

Hardship

As days went by, life became tough for Zain. Her family abandoned her and no one cared about her wellbeing. She became helpless and sought help from men (aging from 18- 50 years). Soon, the men began making sexual advances towards her. At 17 years with no source of livelihood, she started engaging in sexual activities in exchange for money. Luckily, she managed to sit for her KCSE in 2014. A few months later, she discovered she was pregnant.

When her aunt heard of the news, she took her in immediately. Upon her delivery, Zain started looking for jobs to support her child. Sadly, she would wake up, walk for many kilometers in search of jobs and would come home empty-handed. As her quest to make ends meet continued, she fell again into the hands of men who took advantage of her. Occasionally, she used to visit these men in their houses and others she would meet them in the lodges within Naivasha town. “I didn’t know this is sexual exploitation I thought they were helping me out, I felt they were good to me as I did not have any source of income to support my child”. ” She explains.

Receiving support

A social worker based where Zain lives identified her and referred her to our partner KNOTE. Come 2019, she was trained as a peer educator to reach out to other younger female sex workers. Being within the project target group (16-24 years), Zain was then integrated into the programme in October 2020 and she selected a hairdressing course. 

In January 2021 she received a three-day life skills training, reproductive health sessions and job skills training. Consequently, she enrolled for a six-month hairdressing course in March 2021 and sat for the National industrial training agency (NITA) grade three exams in December 2021.  Additionally, she has been supported with a starter kit to initiate a small salon within Naivasha town. 

Future aspirations

From her hairdressing skills, Zain aspires to train other girls who have been victims of sexual exploitation and empower them to overcome life's most pressing challenges.

¨I hope and aspire to be a leading hairdresser in Naivasha and use my skills to reach out to girls at risk of sexual exploitation and help them pick themselves up and move on with life

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