Monday, March 5, 2012

Edra Mbatha

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.

But soon 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 neighbours."