Today we're traveling to Nairobi, Kenya to meet Heshima Kenya, our partner producer doing incredible work with some of the most vulnerable of the world's refugees. An award-winning NGO, Heshima Kenya works with girls and young women who lack the support of a primary caregiver. Some are orphaned; many have fled war, trafficking, sexual violence, FGM or forced marriage. Showing resilience and strength of spirit, these women are becoming leaders in their own right through Heshima Kenya’s holistic empowerment programs specially designed for the unique needs of adolescent refugee girls.
Through Heshima’s integrated approach, refugee girls and young women become part of a healing community that includes safe shelter, case management, medical and legal advocacy, education and income-generating opportunities through Heshima's Maisha Collective. According to Heshima, the Collective is a "peer-driven initiative that fosters leadership and business management skills through the design and production of unique hand-dyed scarves and textiles. In managing the collective, participants gain life-long business and marketing skills that develop their confidence and prepare them for future independence. The power of purchase inspires their journey to support, empower, and ultimately protect other young refugee women."
We spoke with Alisa Roadcup, Heshima Kenya's Executive Director, and asked her a few questions:
Could you tell us something that you are extremely proud of regarding Heshima’s work and accomplishments?
Heshima Kenya is the only organization of its kind in Kenya singularly devoted to providing holistic support for urban refugee girls, young women and their children. Since our founding in 2008, we've served over 500 refugee girls - the most vulnerable of the world's refugees.
Why did you choose to work with scarves?
When the Maisha Collective was founded in 2010, the girls in the Collective felt that scarf-making honored the indigenous artisan traditions of Kenya and the East Africa region. They’re also incredibly beautiful – one of a kind handmade pieces. Every scarf is dyed, tasseled and finished by hand. The level of craftsmanship is intensive and the quality shows in every single scarf Heshima girls make. This superior quality, as well as the powerful story behind each scarf, is what makes a Maisha Collective scarf such a special piece.
How would you describe the effect of social media on Heshima’s everyday activity?
Virtually the entire Maisha Collective is sold wholesale or online through Etsy, so online commerce is critical to Heshima Kenya’s operations. I believe new media is the future of communication and commerce, including online activism and grassroots organizing, so Heshima's social media presence is extremely important to Heshima Kenya’s everyday operations and to staying connected with our supporters around the world.