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Grantee Spotlight – Women’s Institute for Secondary Education and Research (WISER)

The Circle of Sisterhood supports entities that remove barriers to education for girls and women, uplifting them from poverty and oppression. Because of the generous support of our donors, we’ve had an impact in nineteen countries since our founding in 2010.

In Muhuru Bay, Kenya, there is a fishing village on Lake Victoria. This community is calculated to have an HIV infection rate of 38%, in part due to fishermen having multiple sexual partners, and the need for many women to trade sex for fish in order to have access to this valuable commodity. Girls in Muhuru Bay want to become educated so that they have options other than trading sex for fish as they see their mothers and aunts do. They want to become professionals that can improve their community, yet many families won’t financially invest in their daughters’ education, leaving girls to look for other sources of income. This leads to half of all sexually active 10-16 year old girls having transactional sex in order to pay school fees and buy necessary supplies, from books to sanitary pads, as this is the only way they can continue their education. This, of course, increases their HIV risk. Because of the lack of financial or academic support most girls in the community drop out of school by age 14 due to pregnancy or arranged marriages for a few cows. The small percentage of girls who stay in school have historically done very poorly academically, in part due to sexual harassment in the classroom. Girls often become pregnant by primary school teachers. Only a few girls graduate from high school.

“Should I stop having sex with the man who is paying my school fees? I am afraid of getting AIDS.” – 14 year old girl in Muhuru Bay, Kenya.

These words, the opening sentence of Women’s Institute for Secondary Education and Research’s grant application, captured the attention of the Circle of Sisterhood’s grants review team and they capture the essence of what WISER is taking on through its work in Muhuru Bay, Kenya.

WISER is a community development program focused on the social empowerment of underprivileged girls through education and health, working with more than 300 girls to holistically improve health, education, and economic outcomes, particularly those orphaned by AIDS. Their efforts align with Circle of Sisterhood’s mission perfectly. Every health and economic indicator that can be measured is improved in a community by educating girls.

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WISER’s flagship program is a secondary boarding school for needy girls, one third of whom are orphans. The school treats girls with dignity and encourages them to develop as the next generation of women leaders in Kenya. Success isn’t measured simply by enrolment, but by academic social outcomes.

Prior to opening the school, there were no female teachers or educated women to serve as role models for girls in the community. The school has the first female principal and has brought excellent female Kenyan educators to this community. Circle of Sisterhood’s $5,000 grant is dedicated to pay the annual salary of one of the female teachers, Ms. Mourine Ogallo, who teaches English and Literature. Under her leadership the WISER girls build their confidence in public speaking, compose and recite poems for public ceremonies, and work on their writing skills via the first school magazine.

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WISER’s work is transforming the way that girls are valued in the community and the Circle of Sisterhood Foundation is proud to be supporting their amazing efforts!

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