It is in the heart of Kibera slums, in Kenya’s capital Nairobi that we meet nine-year-old Hope Wambui Ochieng. Together with her mother Regina Waithera they welcome us joyfully to their center at Undugu grounds.
Hope, is widely known as a child ambassador in her Kibera neighborhood and is developing a reputation for social activism in a variety of areas. She leads an effort to provide sanitary towels for other girls in the area. And through her poetry, she advocates for women and girls issues, social justice and cancer survivors. What brought her to the limelight is her love for reciting poems, and not just any ordinary poems but those with specific messages.
“I started when I was six years old and I started with poems related to peace and I was telling my community members in Kibera, peace is always wanted alive’’ She further adds that it is her mother who writes the poems for her.
Any parent would want the best for their children and Regina was quick to tap Hope’s talent. She noticed her talent following the numerous music events they used to attend together when Hope was young and would want to perform and took it upon herself to write her a poem
“It was during the 2017 elections and as you know Kibera people often refer it to as ‘’hotbed of violence’’ that’s why I decided to write her poem to encourage the residents that hope is always wanted alive.”
Three years down the line, she has been on different stages performing different poems, but the highlight was performing for Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta on the big four agenda that is part of Kenyatta’s administration.
Slowly well-wishers approached her and they started distributing sanitary towels to the girls in the region that often have to trade sex for pads
“I distribute pads to the girls because now that they are out of school they can’t access the pads because at school they were normally given the pads,” Hope says.
Apart from distributing pads, she also helps the girls knead mats to help raise money for basic needs such as sanitary towels
Lorraine Auma is one of the beneficiaries and she is thankful for having joined the “team hope project”.
“t’s better to knead these mats as opposed to just been idle; like for me am proud once we are done we can sell them and buy pads as opposed to been bought for by men out here.”
For Regina Waithera, Hope’s empowerment journey is a manifestation that naming of a child can be a positive determinant in how a child grows up to be
She tells us for her to name her daughter Hope she had a difficult pregnancy and she always hoped for the best through her journey, hence the name ‘Hope’.
“Being that she is baby Hope, I’ve seen hope in her because I’ve gone through a lot of things and without that hope I would have lost my life a long time ago”
As the world marked the day of the girl child on 11th October Hope’s mother looks forward to the day when more girls like Hope have the power and ability to better shape their futures.
“In the future for Hope, I would like to continue to see use her talent to bring hope and bring a change in the community let her continue that way if she is a cancer ambassador let her continue championing until it gets to a point it’s a cancer-free generation, if it’s standing with the girl child let us know that the girl child has equal rights she is free to be online and her voice is her freedom let her be given equality.”