Alice Kinyua became involved with Many Hopes after spending a week volunteering to help rescued children in Mombasa, Kenya – it was here that her life changed and she realized that there was a gap she could fill as a legal officer. Alice’s advocacy through Many Hopes gives children in Kenya the opportunity to succeed by educating those who have suffered the worst of poverty and exploitation.
This Explorer Embodied’s work gives us hope for better education in Kenya and hopefully, the world.
Darling Magazine: What does Many Hopes do?
Alice: Many Hopes is investing in the generation of children who can defeat the causes of extreme poverty in Kenya. We build loving homes and excellent schools for girls and boys, and then we create local business to sustain them. Many Hopes won’t solve the problem of extreme poverty in Kenya, but we are raising the generation who will.
DM: How did you become involved with it?
Alice: Before working for Many Hopes (which is known as MUdzini Kwetu in Kenya) I was previously working in a commercial law firm. One day, a friend told me about this home in Mombasa that rescued children from difficult backgrounds. I travelled from Nairobi to Mombasa and spent one week volunteering at the home. While I was there, I spent a lot of time with the children, and half of the girls wanted to become lawyers because a lawyer had fought for their rights. On returning home, I could still hear the voices of the little girls. One week had changed my life. I wanted to return and help them to become lawyers and whatever else they wanted to be. I felt the need to fill the gap that the children described, they had not met a female lawyer whom they could fully relate with, and two weeks later I went back and took up a job as a manager and a legal officer.
On returning home, I could still hear the voices of the little girls. One week had changed my life.
DM: How is Many Hopes different from other organizations in Africa?
Alice: We look at long term – we look 20-30 years ahead and ask the question: “What needs to be different so as charities don’t need to build homes and schools?” The answer is, “It’s not just money, it’s leadership.” Children who have suffered the worst of corruption and injustice care the most about it being better. And so we give them the education in their heads, the confidence in their bellies and the network at their fingertips to match that desire.
DM: What is the driving force behind the advocacy work you do for women and children in Africa?
Alice: Two days on taking up my new roles, I went with my boss to respond to a police call. Two children aged four months had been abandoned in a house for three days. They were heavily malnourished and looked very sick. I could swear the children would not make it to the next day. The environment around those children is what changed my life. Their mother had given up, she was sickly, she had two babies and did not have a job, she had never been to school. The mother had nowhere to turn to. The father of the children was long gone.
Having seen such children survive difficult backgrounds after a rescue gives me more energy to fight for them. The transformation in these children is unbelievable, and it is what gives me the drive. I have seen them become leaders in their small world. Their smiles say it all, having an opportunity feels like a second birth. When you see them shine, you can’t help but keep fighting for more who need your help. Giving them an opportunity to have education means changing the society and the world as a whole.
Empowering helps end extreme poverty. If we invest in them through education, we will build a better tomorrow. We will not have a repeated cycle of the same problems. We empowered the mother of these children, and now she is independent and taking care of her other children. She has even created jobs for two other women. Had she had a better opportunity at the beginning, then her children would not have gone through what she went through. Empowering women means better mothers and better parenting. Through education and women empowerment we can bring to an end extreme poverty. Children are our future leaders, they dream big and they have the guts to change the world.
DM: What type of advocacy and policy activities have you been a part of that stood out to you?
Alice: I believe in justice for all. When there is fair and equal treatment, then human beings will have an opportunity to show their best. When others’ rights are violated, then it means they have been denied opportunities to show their best. Representing women and children whose rights have been violated is my greatest passion. Legal services are very hard to access if you earn below a dollar a day. Women and vulnerable children have no voice because they have no money to access legal services whenever their rights have been violated.
I have, for the last four years, represented women and vulnerable children in court. I have also pushed for prosecutions of perpetrators of sexual violence. I also participated in the formulation of a children policy that pushes government to listen to children’s voices. Through this forum I was able to push for good policies that would promote better education for children, especially girls. Education is the key for a better tomorrow. These children will change the world given an opportunity to be in school. As an organization, we provide advocacy services to vulnerable children in the Kilifi County where we are based. Through these programs, I helped establish a network of all stakeholders dealing with children issues where we exchange ideas and present our views and petitions on children issues to the government.
When there is fair and equal treatment, then human beings will have an opportunity to show their best.
DM: How would you describe the state of Kenya for women and children?
Alice: Kenya has, in the last few years, put forward a strong legal framework protecting both women and children. However, implementation is still a challenge. Custodians of the law have not fully committed themselves to ensuring that both women and children are fully protected. Part of the reason is because we have evolved from a patriarchal society and sometimes women and children rights are not fully recognized.
DM: What are your current preparations for graduating Georgetown with an LLM in International Legal Studies? How do you expect to apply what you’ve learned?
Alice: I am currently doing research on “collection and preservation of evidence in sexual offences” with an aim to propose reforms to the government to ensure that victims of sexual violence get justice.
While at Georgetown I had an opportunity to meet and mingle with different legal practitioners who have been in the fight for women and children rights and have made a difference in this field. The exposure of how things are done in different jurisdictions has taught me how to push for solutions, especially in Kenya where I would say we now have relatively good laws for women and children.
I plan to adopt the best practice that would influence the lives of women positively, and ensure that these laws are implemented to change lives. Specifically, I have adopted measures in my research paper that will promote prevention and ensure victims of sexual violence get justice. I will use different forums to push for implementation of my proposals. Through Many Hopes I will develop a stronger network joining other stakeholders to do more advocating. I will lobby custodians of the law to push for enforcement of the good laws protecting women and children.
DM: How can we become involved, and why should we?
Alice: Become involved by joining me in voicing the needs of children and women, fighting injustices and pushing for quality education for all children so as to give them a better future. Your little voice will join many more keeping away extreme poverty lifestyles.