Zawadi, 18 years old, lives in a small village in Kwale County. Poverty and her mother’s illness forced her to drop out of school in order to supplement her family's income, which made her vulnerable and she ended up being sexually exploited. Luckily, she was identified and supported through the Building a Future Project. She was provided with counselling and psychosocial support as well as essential amenities and enrollment at a vocational training institute.
18 year old Zawadi, fifth-born in a family of six, was born and raised in a remote village in Kwale county. They lived in a mud-walled house without water or electricity, and also lacked proper sanitation facilities like toilets and latrines. They survived on hand to mouth and majorly depended on their father who engaged in casual labor who earned as little as 4.20 Euros on a good day. Zawadi attended school from nursery level upto class 7; and in 2019 she dropped out of school due to lack of school fees, and the poverty situation which worsened at home.
The family really struggled to make ends meet. Zawadi lacked basic essentials such as sanitary towels, food and clothing, which she greatly needed. This made her vulnerable to exploitation. At the age of 15, Zawadi was lured by men of ages ranging from 20 to 25 years who were mainly bodaboda operators. They would make advances towards her and give her approximately 0.42 euros. Sadly, she became a victim of sexual exploitation. Her exploitation became rampant after her mother was hospitalised after contracting tuberculosis; and she had no choice but to look for ways to get money. Her grandmother, who looked after her during this time, lacked knowledge of what was happening and left the girl to solely make her own decisions. Zawadi was sexually exploited for a year and a half before she was identified as a child in need of rescue and intervention. “I felt sad about life when engaging in sexual activities and I wished that one day would stop,” Zawadi said.
In 2021, Zawadi was identified by a Child Protection Committee (CPC) member who was concerned about her well being. The CPC member noted Zawadi’s absence from school and her unusual behaviour, and reported the matter to the sub-county children’s officer who linked her with the child protection officer. She was vetted and enrolled into the Building a Future Project in April 2021. Zawadi was offered psychosocial support, counselling support and received a dignity pack with sanitary towels, detergents, petroleum jelly, undergarments, and a bar soap. She was also enrolled at a vocational training institute where she chose to pursue tailoring and received 71.35 Euros to cater for her full school fees at the vocational training institute. She also received learning materials such as tape measure, threads, cotton, hand needles, cutting materials, bobbin and case, seam ripper, cutting scissors,books, pencils and rubbers, and a pair of school uniform to enhance her fashion and design course; and the National Industrial Training Authority (NITA) examination registration support. Zawadi has had regular home and school visits, as well as counseling by the project counselor and social worker.
Zawadi wakes up at 5:00am in the morning to prepare breakfast for herself and her family, and helps her younger siblings prepare for school. A day scholar, she leaves for school at 7:25 am and walks for 35 minutes to school. She attends practicals on designing clothes and familiarising with the sewing machine. She also plays sports and participates in the school team, and is part of the scouts as well.
In the past, Zawadi used to run away from home without permission to meet with the men. When she joined school, she no longer runs away from home and has had time to do school assignments and other household chores. In the past school term she attended school on all the days and she is determined to change her life for the better.
Though her family still struggles to get by, Zawadi is hopeful for the future. Zawadi appreciates the mentorship and support from Kesho Kenya and TdH NL. ‘’Now I am respectful to my parents, teachers, friends, and other neighbors. The visits and encouragement have also pushed me to approach life from a brighter and focused angle,” Zawadi says excitedly. She adds that during her free time, she likes using the sewing machine to design her own clothes and her family’s too. “I would like to be a successful business lady and own my own fashion and design company. I also want to be a role model to girls in my community,” said Zawadi, speaking about her future.