Phionah Musumba, Equality Change makers
Equality Changemakers

Phionah Musumba, Founder & Executive Director Malkia Foundation

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.

ii) Microfinance 

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
My journey started in 2009 when I met 2 girls who were in need of educational support in the slum I used to stay at in the city. I helped and after building a friendship with them, learned the complexity of being a girl with access to little or no resources to thrive. I challenged myself seeing the irony of that setting being in the city and wondered how the girls back in my village were navigating the same. That’s how I started my work.
What motivated you to take this path/start this work?
My motivation came from poverty and my own life experiences. I got married young at 17, and within no time, life was tougher than tough.I became homeless. I experienced the worst form of poverty to the extent of feeding my kids stones with huge mugs of water to simulate a full stomach. I had to watch my first son die for lack of money to get him proper medical attention. I just felt the need to prevent this from happening to other women
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 endeavor, 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 enroll 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.

 

                                                            ———– 

 

Editor’s note: Please visit here to learn more about Malkia Foundation, or to support their work.

Rights of Equality Editorial Team

This interview has been edited and published by our editorial team.

9 Comments

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    Hang Around The World

    Thanks for sharig this interview! It’s nice what she does and there should be more activitis like it. There are so many goals to achieve that together we can. – Paolo

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    WorldInEyes

    She is truly doing a great job..This blog post is truly very helpful and inspiring for every of reader…Glad you shared this with us..Thanks indeed for sharing…

    • Swagata Sen

      Swagata Sen

      Thank you for your comments and I’m glad that you’ve found her story inspiring. Do share to spread the words about her work, and possibly help her to get some support.

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    CA

    This is such an inspirational post! We need more people like her who is brave enough to go against the supposed norms in our society which prohibits the growth of any individual. Personal development is very important for any gender.

  • Avatar

    Nyxinked

    She is such an inspirational and brave woman. I strive to have this ‘get up and go despite the odds’ attitude! Thank you so much for sharing this.

  • Avatar

    Lyosha Varezhkina

    Thank you for this interview, she such an crucial work, I admire her greatly. We need more people like her all around the globe!

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