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Onyinye with the inaugural Strong Enough Girls in Kenya (2012)

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.

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