Pursuing my passion through UNLEASHLAB

My name is Diana Kendi. I am a Kenyan citizen, currently living in Nairobi. I am a journalist by profession, passionate about women and girls’ stories, in relation to their education, health and other issues affecting them such as gender base violence, child marriages and teenage pregnancies. My passion for empowering women and girls through education, as well as advocating for their rights was inspired by their plights, especially for those living in the rural areas and informal settlements.

As a journalist, I have had the privilege to travel to different counties here in Kenya, documenting stories on women and girls. My first feature story was on gender base violence among women and girls in Busia County, one of the counties in the Western part of Kenya. Most of the human voices that I recorded were for girls between the age of 10 and 18. Some of the girls were still in primary schools, and were raped by their step-fathers. What caught my interest so much was the story of a 13-year- old girl, whose uncle forced her into having sex with him twice and was now 6 months pregnant. In addition to that, the uncle warned and threatened her not to ever tell her grandmother and even gave her some few shillings to ensure that she keeps all that by herself, which she faithfully did. The girl lives with her grandmother who has been taking care of her ever since she was young. According to the grandmother, the uncle who is married to two wives is HIV positive.

Such cases of rape, incest and other forms of gender base violence are so rampant in most of the counties here in Kenya. But what saddens the most is that the culprits are not dealt with according to the law. Instead, mothers of these girls are usually threatened not to report the matter or even discuss it with anyone out of the family. They call it a family issue, only to favour them, and in the end, the girls are the one who gets affected both physically and emotionally. In addition to that, they no longer continue with their education, therefore ruining their future. One of the mothers shared with me her story, how her husband chased her from their home just because she reported the culprit who raped her 4-year-old daughter, yet the culprit was her in-law. The husband warned her not to report the matter to the police saying that it would portray their family in a bad picture. Their daughter died while receiving treatment at the hospital.

After covering such stories where women have been prevented from fighting for the rights of their daughters, others being subjected to solving their issues at the ‘Kangaroo courts’, where they are paid a goat and a few thousands to stop the cases in which their daughters have been raped or even impregnated, I realized that most of those women affected are coerced to do so because they lack formal education. The society takes advantage of them because they believe there’s nothing they can do to them, just because they are poor, unlearned and desperate. In such areas, you’ll also find that most of the women who also subject their daughters to harmful practices such as Female Genital Mutilation and child marriages in those community also have either not undergone nor completed their education whether at the primary or secondary level. On the other hand, you find that educated women will never allow or subject their daughters to such harmful practices, and when their daughters face other forms of gender base violence, they take a lawful action and ensure that their daughters get the justice they required. Additionally, girls who have dropped out of school due to teenage pregnancies, no longer go back to school. Instead they resolve into being stay at home mums, with no education, no livelihood, and with a doomed future.

This is why I realized the need of empowering young women and girls in rural areas, through education, as well as engaging youths, through ICT and creative expressions. Moreover, providing mentorship programmes underprivileged youths in rural areas. Besides that, I also realized the need of communicating about good health and quality education to women, girls and youths in rural areas, to create change in the society, and have a generation that will not only protect our women and girls, but also ensure that we have a healthy society, free of such harmful practices.

Having been selected by UNLEASH INNOVATION LAB 2017 as one of the talents, I intend to share innovative ideas that will result in solutions on how to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. UNLEASH LAB 2017, is set to happen this August, for 9 days, in Denmark, and will focus on 7 SDGs, Health, Education and ICT, Food, Water, Energy, Urban Sustainability and Sustainable Production and Consumption.

UNLEASH LAB intends to, explore SDGs, by using the host country’s traditions and ways of living to ignite new discussions and unlock new perspectives on the SDGs, develop and select the top ideas via facilitated business model innovation, co-creation and collaboration among SDG Talents, with input from experts, provide implementation support to the best solutions by connecting the SDG Talents to capital, corporate partners, technology, and local networks and develop a community through regional events, sharing platform and alumni network a broader community of global talent developed.