My name is Pauline Juma and I was born and raised in the Kibera slums of Nairobi, Kenya. I am a survivor of sexual and gender-based violence, having been raped at the age of 16 years and at the age of 19 found myself in a violent marriage.
When I joined SHOFCO in 2014, I had self-esteem issues and was so afraid to speak out. It was there where I learnt about my rights and how to stand up and defend them. I also went through employability training where I gained confidence to do a job interview at an international bank. I couldn’t believe it when I succeeded and got the job. I later joined the SHOFCO Women Empowerment Program (SWEP) where I met some women who were victims of gender based violence, too.
Gender-based violence is a daily occurrence in the slums. In Kibera, we hear about cases of rape every week. This calls for more robust campaigns and awareness creation in the community on how such cases should be handled to ensure that perpetrators are prosecuted and victims get justice.
Braving these challenges in Kibera has taught me to rise beyond every fear in my heart. It has put me in a position to unconditionally love and take care of women and girls in the slums. I am passionate about being a safe space for women to be empowered and mentored through sustainable solutions.
As a young woman who is passionate about women’s empowerment, I champion sustainable solutions to gender-based violence in urban slums. It is high time we focus our energies on empowering women through sustainable solutions like entrepreneurship, education, and employment.
I believe that to achieve gender equality, we must cooperate with both genders. I empower girls and I empower boys, too, to live with empowered women for a peaceful society.
To complement what SHOFCO and other organizations are doing in slums, I have founded Rebirth of a Queen, an organization that is aiming to set up a shelter for survivors of sexual and domestic violence. My mission is to be a champion for a safer world for women where they will achieve their goals in life without being violated, underestimated, and undermined.
On this International Women’s Day, I call on each and every person, women and men, at every level in life to speak in one voice to achieve gender equality. It is not a journey of competition but a journey of completion to make the world a better place.