Maimuna, 20, is one of the She Leads girl advocates from Kenya´s Kwale County. Through various sensitisation forums that she has been able to attend, she can now advocate for the rights of girls and other young women. However, before this came into being, Maimuna faced tough times as a teenager.
After being enrolled in high school, Maimuna developed a health condition that saw her ooze blood from her ears and nose which made life in school difficult, including making friends. The second year of high school saw her completely drop out of school when she was 15 years old. By then, she had a boyfriend whom she met at a wedding ceremony, who was 30 years old. The two got married, with a Kadhi (magistrate) officiating the ceremony and her parents supporting the union. Barely two months after being married, Maimuna´s marriage began facing issues.
Maimuna´s husband got a job in Saudi Arabia, leaving his new wife -who was pregnant at that time- with her in-laws. Soon, her husband stopped communicating and providing for her. It was not long before Maimuna began having issues with her sisters-in-law. Maimuna´s husband filed for a divorce and asked her to have an abortion, which she did. Her family, friends and the community ostracised her for being divorced. As a result, she ended up being sexually exploited for about six months in order to meet her needs before Terre des Hommes Netherlands´ partner, Kesho Kenya, came to her rescue.
In 2018, Maimuna was enrolled back in high school. Unfortunately, with the programme´s closure, all the support offered to beneficiaries stopped which pushed Maimuna back to sexual exploitation. In 2020, at the age of 19, she got married again. The husband, a 31-year-old man, stopped providing for Maimuna and was physically abusive. When she sought intervention from her parents, they requested her to go back to her marriage, stating that they would disown her if she got divorced again. In 2021, Maimuna separated from her husband. Her parents´ hostility pushed her to live with her grandmother, where she resides to date.
With the launch of the She Leads Programme, beneficiaries of its preceding programme (Girls Advocacy Alliance) were adopted to be part of the new programme. One of these beneficiaries is Maimuna. She has learnt of her role in taking action towards changing the retrogressive norms. She learnt that preference for boys´ education is not right as everyone has a right to education. Learning this contributed to her resolve to go back to school. The program officer further linked her to an adult learning centre where Maimuna is enrolled and registered to finish secondary school.
The media engagements that she has been part of have encouraged her to speak out about the issues Girls and Young Women face in Kwale county. Through the She Leads Program, Maimuna has been linked to ward administrators for the application of education loans and also with the Kenya Youth Empowerment Program (KYEOP) for life skills training. Maimuna applied for KYEOP and is currently awaiting results on the same.
Maimuna was selected as the Kwale GYW representative under the She Leads program, a position she says has helped improve her self-esteem and build her confidence.
‘I had lost hope, but She Leads helped me to be confident and make decisions on my own. I’m now confident enough to share my story and right now I have the courage to tell my parents what is right and wrong,’ she says. Maimuna proudly adds, “I feel empowered, safe from domestic violence and I am more focused in life. I am positive towards my life and not allowing anything to interfere with my dreams despite my background and the present circumstances.”