Pastor Ali is the first to admit it’s not easy to be a woman where he is in Kenya. Some of the girls in his congregation cannot even afford sanitary products when they have their monthly period and are forced to stay home from school on those days; and forget about common luxuries that might raise their confidence, like clothes that fit them well or having their hair done. These daily struggles pain him to witness as he considers these girls like his daughters; for him being a father doesn’t have to be biological—it can also be lived by nurturing someone, offering guidance, and teaching them what they need to know to protect themselves. This need to show up as a father to them is what led him to develop solutions that allowed he and the church to better support them.
In addition to pioneering fundraising efforts to meet some of their basic needs, he also developed a mentorship program that trains them to better understand their bodies, particularly as it relates to being sexual beings, and the importance of abstinence until they are married so as not to end up with children they are unprepared to raise or worse. The program also addresses what it really means to be with a man in a healthy relationship, as many of these girls don’t know their fathers, and issues like drugs and addiction, which are also unfortunately as prevalent in the community as teenage pregnancy is.
Once these girls find themselves pregnant, that’s it for many of them.
“They are forced to give up school, any dreams they may have had, and turn to their parents, who are rarely in the position to help. Many of them end up resorting to selling their bodies and their parents just turn a blind eye. They feel they have no other choice or the child will starve.” Kenya also used to rank #2 for cases of HIV, but thanks to the church’s efforts, he says, they have dropped to #10 in recent years—a pattern he hopes will continue.
Pastor Ali sees the needs of his daughters are much different than the needs of a man. When encouraged and nurtured, he says, women can take care of so many things within a home and within their personal relationships that men cannot. Unfortunately, he adds, you see that when you get close to many of them, they are harboring deep wounds from times a kindness was taken advantage of.
Women carry much more inside them than men do.
“A girl will carry all this weight within her that no one will ever see unless they take the time to get close and show they can be trusted. And if this inner healing doesn’t occur from a healthy connection, often these mistakes just repeat themselves and cause further damage.”
Although COVID-19 has temporarily halted his efforts, he is using the time to devise new ways of furthering his support once they can all gather again. His first plan of action will be to arrange a dinner with a few motivational, well-respected adults in the community to share wisdom and guidance with them. After the speeches, there will be a chance for everyone to share what really hit home to them or to write it down if they prefer on the paper they’ve been provided. “Many of them have the same experiences and I believe this solidarity can provide some kind of solace for them,” he explains, “And if this does end up helping, I want to gather these experiences into a book eventually—with their permission and names changed of course— so that other girls, wherever they are in the world, can turn to it for the same kind of solace to help keep them out of danger.”