Phionah Musumba is the Founder & Executive Director of Malkia Foundation, a non-governmental organization(NGO) in rural Kenya which helps and empowers underprivileged girls and women. Phionah’s remarkable journey of establishing the Malkia Foundation to help others while she herself was fighting with acute poverty is just phenomenal. We are deeply grateful and honored to be able to feature Phionah and her groundbreaking and incredible work in the “Equality Change Makers” interview series.
Phionah, could you please tell us about your work in promoting women empowerment and gender equality?
I run Malkia Foundation, a national non-governmental organization in rural Western in Kenya. We empower girls with educational opportunities, and women by providing them opportunities for skill-building for enterprise development towards gainful and or self-employment for sustainability.
At the moment though, we are involved in the mitigation of COVID-19 through mass production and free distribution in face masks and handwashing soap to our community. As of now, we have distributed 54,000 masks and 7,000 bottles of handwashing soap. During normal times, we run different programs, namely-
i) Menstrual Hygiene and Management
We provide approximately 4,000 girls every year with menstrual hygiene supplies to keep them in school.
We provide women on groups of 15 with tiny loans that impact their lives profoundly by enabling them to achieve and access their families’ basic needs. Sometimes their goal is usually to be able to put food on their table.
iii) School Outreach
We impart life-skills, entrepreneurship, and self-reliant skills to school going girls to help them understand the importance of being job-ready or self employable after school.
iv) Teenage Mothers Empowerment
We work with girls who find themselves thrown in the motherhood roles early in life. We provide them with 7 weeks of financial literacy skills, lifestyles, entrepreneurship, and general knowledge to be able to fend for themselves and their babies. At the end of the training, we provide them with small amount of loans with which they start small cottage businesses for their sustainability. We also provide them with family planning information.
v) School Uniforms Manufacturing
With a total of 11 tailors, we manufacture school uniforms for the schools in Vihiga County at discounted prices to enable parents to afford the school fees for their children.
Please tell us more about your journey
What motivated you to take this path/start this work?
Can you share some of the major challenges and roadblocks which you’ve faced in empowering women/girls?
Although I live and work in my hometown, being accepted was not a walk in the park. My ideas were considered too foreign. For instance, women here were used to using crude methods and materials to stem menstrual blood. They would sit their menstruating daughters on the sand, insert banana fiber, old pieces of fabric, and even dirty blanket pieces inside the girls, which made them contract weird diseases. They believed that the sanitary pads we provided were used to harvest the blood from their daughters for unthinkable purposes.
Even as we’ve made strides and progress now, our major challenge remains to get funding for our work.
Please share some of your achievements and major milestones that you are proud to share with our readers.
Our vision has always been to build the Malkia STEM school for girls, seeing as we live in a society that has programmed girls to believe that their brains are not wired for the sciences and mathematics, but the arts and languages. To this endeavour, we have purchased the land, the first step towards realizing our vision.
We are building the Malkia STEM school, an all-girls school, the first of its kind in Kenya, which will enrol girls from kindergarten level so that they grow up not feeling guilty about their love for the sciences. We live in a society that has programmed girls to believe that their brains are not wired strong enough for mathematics and the sciences, which should be a preserve for boys. We want to kill this notion.
I would request the readers to please help us navigate this path.
What would you advise to our readers who want to help and empower others?
A candle loses nothing by lighting another. Sharing opportunities for growth with other women helps you grow, shines your candle brighter. Lift each other up, don’t put each other down. UBUNTU; I am because you are. Help me help her.