About the people behind the initiative
We are a group of women who are passionate about empowerment for girls. We see education, health care and financial independence as a human right and we want to offer these rights to girls living in the slums of Nairobi. We all work on a voluntary basis and receive no payments for work that we do for the project. We are committed to using all our funds for the people who need it the most. We believe that those of us living in a privileged position should be helping others to a better life and empowering girls can really make a difference to their lives and their children's lives.
The committee consists of Fiona Weijkamp-Sims (Founder/chairwoman), Elly Loman (secretary) and Saskia Soetevent (treasurer) Laura Honders (committee member) and Maqulate Atieno Onyango (project manager in Nairobi)
Fiona is an English native who has lived and worked in the Netherlands since 1988. Before she arrived in the Netherlands she trained and worked as a nurse in England. She was passionate about her career and the people she cared for. After settling in Holland and fulfilling her interest in alternative health care, she trained as a Homoeopath. She now works as a native speaker teaching English. She is very aware of how much good health and a good education are so vital to living a fulfilled life and are basic rights which should be available to everyone.
The first time Maqulate left her birthplace Mathare, an expansive slum only a few square miles in an area that houses more than a half a million people in Nairobi, she was 16 years old and had learned how to read just three years earlier. She played football, with a passion which led to her being chosen as a delegate of a sports association which organises leagues for the children of the slum to give a presentation at a conference on women’s participation and inclusion in sports in Zambia.
Her slogan is, “sports is Peace, which has no barriers, knows no race, background or gender.” Sport became a tool that drew Maqulate out of her home from the informal settlements in Nairobi where extreme poverty, hunger and AIDS are an epidemic and where young people turn to substance abuse, early marriages and prostitution in the absence of better options. She turned to football, and it set her on a path to literacy, employment and a position as a respected mentor for other girls.
Within four years, Maqulate graduated from High school and took up a job with the Mathare Youth Sports Association – MYSA, a sport for development organisation where she learned refereeing, training girls on psycho-social issues which affect girls and training other women to be referees. She became a CAF match commissioner and currently she is a Futuro III technical Referees instructor.
She worked as Manager of MYSA’s youth Rights and Protection project where she was involved with creating awareness on legal rights, child abuse and neglect, networking and child safety. Also gender based violence, sexual harassment, rape and female genital mutilation (FGM). Maqulate has done outstanding work training MYSA staff annually on child protection policy and making sure that staff members adhere to it by signing declaration forms. She has held campaigns together with partners celebrating 16 days of activism and the day of the African child within the Mathare slums.
In 2014 Maqulate participated in the Global Sports Mentorship Program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and espnW to pair emerging leaders from around the world with American female executives in the sports industry. She was attached to Saatchi and Saatchi LA, a mentorship organisation. While there she met with inspiring people such as Oprah Winfrey, Evan Ryan (Assistant Secretary of State), Laura Gentile (President of EspnW) and Maria Shriver.
She has been running mentorship programmes for 14 -16 year old girls. Because of these efforts, she attended a forum with then US President Barack Obama and the Kenya Civil Society, at the Deloitte-run Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Regional Leadership Centre during his state visit to Kenya.
She works with SWAGA and UNDP to promote Sports and Development and Peace in Marsabit County. Maqulate also recently gained a degree in Project Management and she is a very capable manager of our Mathare Girl Power Project.
Elly was born and raised in the Netherlands. She studied Social Geography of de Developing World. “We in Western-Europe are so privileged, we have all the opportunities to lead a fulfilling life”.
Since 1988 she has worked with great enthusiasm in Secondary Education. She started as a geography teacher in Hoorn in the north of the Netherlands. In 2008 she became the principal of Vathorst College in Amersfoort, where she met Fiona. Now Elly is a principal at the Hyperion Lyceum in Amsterdam. She still likes to work in a team very much, enjoys teaching geography and is learning every day.
Saskia Soetevent and Fiona are colleagues. She works as head Administrator for the Vathorst College in Amersfoort. Fiona regularly asked for her help with administrative tasks based around her Mathare Girl Power project and this is how she became enthusiastic and involved in the project. The fact that it is a small scale project aimed at helping girls to help themselves is what attracted her to get involved.Fiona’s passion and enthusiasm also helped. Saskia believes that making small changes can lead to big improvements in the lives of young people and can offer them a better chance for their future . The Mathare Girl Power Project aims to do just that. She enjoys the challenge of working as a committee member and helping towards reaching our goals and she wants to show the world that a small scale project can set a big example.
Laura is a passionate advocate for the right to sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender equality and disability inclusion, striving towards a world where everyone can make informed decisions about their bodies, lives and futures. After visiting Kenya and Nicaragua during high school, she studied Anthropology and International Development Studies and she is now working for the Liliane Fonds. She is passionate about international development and specifically the investment in young women and girls. Volunteering for the girl power project not only gives the opportunity to work more on the topic she is passionate about & to work more allround on different tasks in a non profit organisation. Additionally she has close connections to Kenya, having a partner who grew up there the first 13 years of his life and by frequent visits for her current job. When not discussing matters related to bodily autonomy, gender equality and inclusion, you will find Laura (cr)eating delicious meals with her friends, family or partner or bribing her cat with treats in exchange for snuggles.
Photo by Rupert Pessl
Mathare is one of the largest and oldest informal settlements in Nairobi. where inhabitants have inadequate housing, basic services and poor access to safe drinking water and sanitation. Poverty and lack of support and services leaves women and young girls in a vulnerable position. Poverty forces women and girls to make difficult choices. How do you sustain a family with no funds? How do you provide for a family when you have no qualifications to enable you to find work? Our Empowerment Program aims to help girls to improve their lives by making more informed choices.
Mathare Girl Power Project
The Mathare Girl Power Project (MGPP) was established under the name of Fiona’s Salon Initiative in 2013 . We offered employment to 5 girls who were rescued from child labour in the Mathare slums in Nairobi, Kenya. With support from Mrs Fiona Weijkamp Sims (the Netherlands) and Mrs Maqulate Atieno Onyango (Mathare, Nairobi). We started our project with a small hair dressing salon where girls can learn this trade and gain skills to enable them to earn a living as hairdressers. This is a small scale venture which is working well for the girls involved.
We also run a girls Empowerment program in schools in and around the Informal Settlements of Mathare and Kariobangi.We feel it is important to conduct health and peer education programs for the empowering and improvement of support for vulnerable girls and teenage mothers. We provide Coaching, Mentorship and Education. We teach a curriculum on childrens rights, sexual health and education, menstrual hygiene, family planning and AIDS awareness and prevention.
We do this through workshops, group discussion, civil rights advice, mentorship and coaching sessions in schools and in the local community. We also use sporting activities as a way of encouraging team work, creating a bond, reducing stress and encouraging positivity.