Heshima Kenya: Empowering Refugee Girls Through Education and Enterprise

Heshima Kenya is a non-profit organisation that empowers refugee girls through education and enterprise. This organisation specialises in identifying and protecting unaccompanied and separated refugee children and youth, especially girls, young women, and their children living in Kenya.

Since 2008, Heshima Kenya has directly supported over 3,000 refugee children and youth through their award-wining “holistic model” of case management, specialised secondary education, entrepreneurship, child protection and social enterprise programs. This model revolves around education, economic empowermentsafe house programme, advocacy and research, case management, and community outreach. This all provides refugee girls and women with a chance to build long-term support for themselves.

Heshima Kenya is the first organisation in Kenya devoted to protecting unaccompanied minors and separated children and youth between the ages of 13 to 23 from Somalia, Ethiopia, DR Congo, Sudan, Rwanda, and Burundi. These children experience the highest rates of exploitation and abuse. According to Heshima Kenya’s website, 70% of the young women supported by the organisation have reported some form of sexual and gender-based violence (although this percentage is believed to be closer to 80% as many do not report such violence).

Unaccompanied refugee girls and young women face immense hardships. Notably, harm to their physical and mental health, social exclusion and crime. As Heshima Kenya reports most women who entered their programme traveled by truck to reach Nairobi, a means of travel that significantly increases the likelihood of sexual assault. Furthermore, over half the women have children, sometimes as a result of coercion or due to limited access to birth control.

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The Maisha Collective project by Heshima Kenya is an established social enterprise that fosters leadership and business management skills through the design and production of unique hand-dyed fabrics and textiles using traditional local techniques. According to the website, participants in the project “gain life-long entrepreneurial business and marketing skills that develop their confidence and prepare them for future independence…our artisan collective is unique in that it enables young women to achieve economic and social independence at their own pace. Most have deep emotional and physical scars that require long-term case management support.”

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The “Angie: Sapphire and White” scarf I am using as a cover up in these photos is absolutely lovely. Named after one of the Maisha Collective’s original members, Angie, this popular design technique has been perfected by their artisans over the years. All of their scarves are hand-dyed using a traditional dyeing technique called “resist dyeing” – a traditional method of dyeing textiles with patterns using methods to prevent the dye from reaching all the cloth and thereby creating a pattern on a background. As all of the scarves are one-of-a-kind handmade pieces the pattern or colour may vary from scarf to scarf. The scarf comes in a stunning variation of colours and are fit to wear at any time of year whether as a winter scarf or cover up in the summer months! Every scarf purchase contributes directly to their artisans, with 100% of the scarf proceeds reinvested into the Maisha Collective. Each scarf comes with a tag that has the name and country of origin of the artisan who produced the piece, as well as the story of the Maisha Collective. Since 2010, nearly 70% of Maisha artisans have become economically independent!

You can shop lovely meaningful pieces from the Maisha collective HERE. You can also donate to Heshima Kenya HERE. 

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Also wearing:

Swimsuit: Statice Paris – you can read more about this amazing sustainable swimwear brand in a previous post HERE.

Sunglasses: Quay Australia

Heshima Kenya sent me this piece for review and the product is genuinely loved! Help brands that support women’s and refugee empowerment and economic rights and make it a social norm to shop ethically. 

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Sustainable fashion, ethical luxury, and lifestyle blog by Nataly Elbaz Björklund. Creating awareness on sustainability issues and introducing ethical, sustainable, eco-friendly, slow fashion & lifestyle brands.

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