Esila | For Girls


Imagine living in a community, perched on top of an inactive volcano, 90 minutes from the closest tarred road and accessible with a sturdy 4-wheel drive over a rutted track. News from the outside world travels slowly in a community like this, Most families are too poor to own a radio. There are no shops – only remote homesteads, an apostolic church and the Karuka primary school. Now, imagine the additional isolation of being visually impaired in this community. Nasierian, a Grade 6 Maasai student is one of three children in the school of 209 learners who are visually impaired. It goes without saying that there are no special needs programmes or suitably qualified teachers. But this month, Naserian’s life changed. She and her fellow Grade 6 and 7 learners were the recipients of Fenix radio-lights as part of an initiative called Esila, which means ‘for girls’ in Maa. Our partners are the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC and the country’s national broadcaster with 14 local language stations in addition to English and Swahili) and the Bethel Network, a Kenyan NGO which provides menstrual hygiene products and related education and support for sanitation for rural schools.
radio education for visually impaired children
“I never could imagine to get a radio. I am so happy, I am so happy,” she told our CEO Kristine Pearson who is currently in Kenya to oversee the distribution of the radios into 15 schools, and to teach the recipients how to use them. Naserian, through tears of happiness, said she can now listen to school lessons when she is not in class and to the news every night and be informed. Her family is extremely poor and does not have a radio at home. Karuka Primary School sits high atop Mt Suswa, an inactive volcano in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley. In the Maa language Karuka means higher place and Suswa the wind that moves throughout for a long time. The scenery looks like its straight from the movie Out of Africa. Mt Suswa is still inhabited by hyena, leopard, a few lion, and zebra along with cobras and pythons.

The heartwarming distributions

Karuka was only one of nine Maasai schools and one of 15 schools in total that we visited.

At each school fun KBC radio presenters got the children laughing with some interactive games. Then the Bethel nurses talked to the adolescent girls and boys both about body parts, body changes, menstruation, and sexuality. She demonstrated how to apply sanitary pads (which were donated by Proctor & Gamble and Lifeline Energy) to underwear. The girls received both pads and underwear, something else many girls lack.

Bethal sanitary pad demonstration

The local KBC presenters came back for more fun, games and songs before transitioning into the radio distributions.

Teachers identified the most vulnerable girls at each school who would receive radios. Although the children can speak and understand English, the KBC guys assisted. Of the 15 schools visited, only a small handful had radios at home. No girls were allowed to touch them as they belong to their fathers. The girls were also thrilled about the lights to do homework and go to the toilet, as few have solar lights at home either.

The boys are disadvantaged, too. However, for girls the challenges are far greater. Of course, boys can listen to the radios, as can other family members and neighbours, but they are the responsibility of the girls. The girls sign a contact with their school which spells out the terms and conditions of the donation which their teacher and their parent or guardian must also sign.

Esila KBC radio distribution

Thank you

We wish to thank each and every Tom Hanks Day supporter because it is due to your generous contributions that the Esila project is possible. And a special shout out to Linda Stevens, whose support alone enabled 100 radios to be distributed. We estimate that in addition to the school girls themselves, the units will easily be listened to by up to 10 people.

Expanding the project

Given the success of Esila’s first phase, we’re thrilled to announce that it will become an ongoing initiative between Lifeline Energy, KBC and the Bethel Network. We are continuing to raise funds and hope to be able to deliver 5000 radios to school girls by the end of the year. The need is immense.

If you would like to continue your support, click here