Women of Faith Building Resilience in Kenya

GATHER alumnus Mariam Ali Famau in Kenya recently announced the launch of a new program that will play an important role stopping the recruitment of young women for terrorist organizations and planting the seeds for long-term prosperity in one of the world’s most impoverished areas.

Working closely with Dr. Dorcas Kiplagat and Arigatou International, longtime partners of the Goldin Institute, Mariam launched the new initiative, called Women of Faith in Action: Building Family Resilience, for women ages 18-35. The program will empower its participants to teach others and amplify its effects to a broader population.

Interviewed just a few days before the program’s launch, an excited Mariam said:

Soon the program will start and we shall have 100 to 110 women participating. They will be trained and they will go back to the community and train children from age of 18 and below. First we shall have a stake holders forum and then the selected women will be trained, and after the training, we shall have a sustainable IGA (income generating activity) community support program.

Mariam lives and works in Majengo, an impoverished but resilient community on the outskirts of Nairobi, and designed Women of Faith in Action for single women who are influential in their communities, both Muslims and Christians, the majority from the Swahili-speaking community. Most of the women in this area have no income or prospect of gainful employment, sustaining themselves by selling second hand clothes or snacks at a market place, a state of desperation that leaves them vulnerable to radicalization and recruitment for terror organizations based in Somalia across the border. Although the organizations based in Somalia are ostensibly Islamist, Mariam explained that Christians as well as Muslims are at risk for radicalization because of their dire poverty.

A single mother with three children – two girls and one boy – Mariam is proud that she is launching these programs in her mid-50s. She traces her work as an advocate back to 1984, after she left a position at Kenya Post and Telecommunications due to the harassment of her supervisor. She started a community training program sponsored by DANIDA, a Danish organization, received support from Action Aid Kenya for other initiatives, and founded the Peaceful Innovative Organization. She empowered her participants by teaching them about women’s rights and children’s rights and how to operate small-scale businesses such as detergent-making, clothes washing and housekeeping. Her organization helped women build community toilets, essential in areas where most homes have no indoor plumbing and a service for which the women can charge fees. 

For Women of Faith in Action: Building Family Resilience, Mariam plans to buy washing machines for cars and clothes as well as containers to be used for garbage collection, to create enterprises that will allow participants will be paid weekly. Participants will also learn proposal writing skills to further enable their prosperity. In addition to the 100 women participants, Mariam will include 20 teachers in the program as well. Mariam held the first planning meeting for the program on June 10.

After the participants complete the program, Mariam expects them to go back to their communities, their madrassas and schools, to help other young women.

We want to train them how we can all live in harmony. We are trying to sing the same gospel together.-- Mariam Ali Famau