The AWOD for this Sunday March 4 is EDRA MBATHA of Nairobi, Kenya, who has dreamed up an innovative way to protect children from widespread sexual abuse and neglect. After she completed her O levels, Mbatha moved from her rural hometown -- as do so many young adults with no resources in Kenya -- to a slum in Nairobi in hopes of finding employment and making a life for herself.
after arriving and seeing the terrible conditions in which people were
living, and noticing how so many women had "given up" and just stood
around all day gossiping, Mbathe began working as a volunteer with a
grassroots women's group. Close to two decades later, Mbatha is still
working within the Mathare community.
In 2008 during
preelection violence she noticed that children were at high risk. "It
was a chaotic time for children," she remembers. "In the slums, the myth
that having sex with minors could cure people living with HIV was rife
and children were defiled in large numbers." While the women's
organization was providing some services to the children, Mbatha saw the
clear need for early intervention to prevent victimization from
happening at all.
She realized that sexual predators would
strike during those hours when working parents left their children
alone. So she started Mathare Early Childhood Development Centre, which
began as a daytime "safe house" collectively funded by parents of the
children, and has become a school that also provides nutrition and
counseling for 30 children.
Beyond the powerful support and
direct aid being provided to the students and their parents, Mbatha has a
broad vision in which the Centre will produce politically aware adults
and long-term changes in Kenyan society. "It’s lack of education that
sees Kenyans manipulated by politicians to take arms against their