The Strong Enough Girls’ Empowerment Initiative (SEGEI) began with 10 adolescent girls in Kisumu, Kenya. During her first trip to the country in the summer of 2012, SEGEI Founder, Onyinye Edeh, had an opportunity to sit down for lunch with adolescent girls who shared their life stories and the challenges they face as girls in their schools and communities. The encounter and the stories the girls shared awakened Onyinye to the harsh realities of girls’ lives and their vulnerabilities, particularly in developing countries. Most importantly, Onyinye realized the crucial need for girls in low-resourced communities to have access to role models and mentors who can advise them and provide positive guidance as they navigate the challenges of growing up. Upon her return to the U.S., Onyinye began a letter-writing initiative between her female friends and the Kenyan girls to provide sustained mentorship and friendship to the girls. The letters helped nurture sisterhood bonds between the adult women and adolescent girls, and proved to be a valuable tool for empowerment. A blog site was soon set up to share more inspirational girl-centered posts. Following a one-year experience with adolescent girls in Nigeria in 2015, Onyinye partnered with Nnenna John, a like-minded Champion for girls’ empowerment. Together, they registered SEGEI as a non-profit initiative with the aim of empowering women and addressing the everyday challenges that adolescent girls in low-resource settings face, namely denial of their human rights to education, good health, and social empowerment. The name Strong Enough Girls reflects their desire to empower girls and young women to know, feel, and see that they are/can be strong enough to be who they are, pursue big dreams, and resist societal norms/pressures.
We achieve our mission through a targeted girl-centric programmatic approach comprising four core focus areas:
Onyinye (Own-Yin-Yay) is an “Americanah-Nigerian” Global Health professional with a strong passion for advancing the health and rights of girls and women through empowerment and advocacy. She holds a Master of Public Health degree in Global Health and is a proud alumna of a women’s college. Onyinye understands the tremendous potential that young people, especially girls possess and the value they contribute to society at large. She feels fulfilled when she is able to help an adolescent girl harness her potential, academically and socially.
Onyinye’s #StrongEnough story: Onyinye walks with a limp (possibly the result of an improperly administered injection when she was younger). This condition led her to build a very strong self-esteem as a teenager, which has allowed her to thrive as an adult. Onyinye is one of the most active young persons you’ll meet. She wants her life to be an inspiration to other girls and women; no matter what hiccups may come along the journey of life, your life has meaning and you should pursue your passion(s) with strength, grace, and perseverance. Keep up with Onyinye’s exploits on Twitter @MsOEdeh.
Sharon is an avid Global Health Advocate. She strongly believes that knowledge is power and is a huge supporter of informed decisions. She enjoys debates that question the status quo of a variety of topics, including patriarchy, feminism and societal expectations of the girl child. Having grown up in Kenya and studied in North America, she works at constantly creating a healthy balance between traits she’s nurtured from both areas. She is currently seeking to pursue a Masters in Global Health.
#StrongEnough story: In primary school, Sharon overcame her fear of Public Speaking. When Sharon first stood in front of her peers to specifically talk about the impacts and consequences of irresponsible sexual behavior, she felt at ‘home.’ This was after she had attended a series of workshops as a representative for her school on Peer Education and responsible sexual practices. It wasn’t so much the rush that comes after conquering a personal hurdle – but the joy, understanding and the realization that brightened her peers’ faces was worth every single second she was center stage. This opportunity was the start of the rest of her life as a dedicated Peer Educator and supporter of her peers in matters pertaining to health and well-being. Catch up with Sharon on Twitter @solidsha.
Jennifer is a Social Media Executive and currently one of the exceptional Women Deliver young leaders. She is passionate about promoting healthy behavior with a focus on family planning (FP) and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and advocates against gender based violence (GBV) through media campaigns, training of service providers, advocacy and community engagement. Jennifer has coordinated and trained more than 1000 family planning service providers.
Jenny’s #StrongEnough story: As a teenager, Jenny had a deep rooted inferiority complex. She believed that she was not good enough for anything and anybody; not pretty nor worthy of love and affection. Once she got into university however, Jenny made a decision to stand out. She did this by excelling in her academic work, and soon discovered who she truly was and what she was born to do. She was born to impact lives, to influence policies and perceptions, and to become a voice to the voiceless, especially the powerless girl child. Jenny tweets about everything around SRHR and GBV on Twitter @AmadiJen.
Jumoke Deniyi-Balogun was born in Lagos, Nigeria, and migrated to the United States at a tender age of 9 months. She holds a M.Sc. degree in Women and Gender Studies with a concentration in Health and Sexuality. She is passionate about helping less privileged women and assisting them in getting their lives back together. She is happily married and has a beautiful daughter.
#StrongEnough story: When Jumoke was about 14, she decided to move to Nigeria to go to school. The first question that everyone asked was WHY? Are you bad? (Back in the day being sent to Nigeria means you were a troubled child) She was not a troubled child, just someone who wanted to venture out. So a day before her 14th birthday, Jumoke was on a flight to Lagos, Nigeria. It was extremely hard for her to be away from her comfort zone, her immediate family and her friends. She went to a boarding school in Ibadan. Anytime she spoke to her parents she would break down to tears. One day her dad told her to eat efo (bitter leaf) and tell him how the experience was. The bitter leaf was bitter at first and then became sweet. Her father explained that’s how life is. You may have a hard life and struggle, but once you work hard enough it will become a sweet ending. Everytime she is struggling with something, Jumoke always remembers her dad’s words of wisdom.