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I am Francis Kitsao, a Kesho Kenya alumni and currently in my final year pursuing my degree in gender and development studies. Kesho Kenya has walked with me since I joined high school in 2012 to date. Kesho did not only pay my school fees but also molded me by equipping me with various life skills that enable me to thrive in this very competitive world. Kesho offered me trainings on leadership, entrepreneurship, goal setting and career selection among others that have not only helped me in selecting my university course but also discover what I’m passionate about and that is bringing about positive change to my community. The trainings also taught me how to manage my finances while at the university, boost my self-esteem, and develop leadership skills.

Passion for mentorship

My journey with Kesho did not just stop at high school since i was given an opportunity to volunteer so as to gain relevant work experience before joining university. The experience there helped me explore my abilities in various ways I could never have imagined. From time to time, I would mentor secondary school students on achieving academic success. Well, this was not easy as I had never been in front of an audience but with time, I developed passion for mentorship, urge to bring change and solutions to some of the problems in our society.

So when I joined the university, I had the idea to start up an initiative that would influence positive behavior change among students but did not know where to start. For starters, I was only in my first year of study and still familiarizing with the institutional policies and structures. I continued with my studies but never lost focus on what i wanted to achieve before completing my course.

When men dominate women

When I got to my second year of  studies, I felt that was best time to start up the drive since Ihad made a few friends with the same interest and had good relationships with some of my lecturers who came helped out both in cash and kind. To be honest, I was full of uncertainties like “what if I start this up and it flops?” Nevertheless, I never let my doubts weigh me down and went ahead with my drive. Most students were at first not willing to pay up club registration fees but I managed to convince them that it was all for a noble course which will change our society.

I had witnessed what was happening both in my community and the university. Having been brought up in a patriarchal family, I understood what it was like, for men to domineer over women compelling them to think that’s how it should be.

I felt the need to educate people against Sexual Gender Based Violence (SGBV) that has seen many girls and women in my community suffer terribly. Imagine, a girl at the uni in a toxic relationship where she is physically and emotionally abused, suffers in silence and thinks it is okay. It really pains me when these girls stay in such relationships simply because the guy meets their daily expenses  which they are unable to cater for.

Passionate about change

To stop all this, I started up a campus club in 2018 whose main aim is to end SGBV within and outside the student community. Since I was green on running such a club, I visited National Gender Equality Commission and United Nations office in Nairobi to learn their ways of running things. I did not stop at that. I went ahead, researched and brought on board partners who we to date work together in organizing events and activities. Our club has about 60 registered members who are committed and passionate about change.

To ensure smooth running of the club, every member pays up a small amount to enable us organize for activities like visiting children homes and conducting forums in the university that bring SGBV experts to talk to the students on various topics. Also, since I believe in the power of a story, we create a platform for students to hear from people who have experienced and successfully come out of SGBV so as to be encouraged and prompt them to do the same while they still can.

Member of “Do it with Boldness” Foundation

My dream is to register this club as a foundation that will be sensitizing members against SGBV, toxic masculinity and sponsor relationships not only with in the university but also in my home County: Kilifi and our country at large. To prepare me for this, I am a member of “Do it with Boldness” Foundation in Nairobi where I volunteer as a program coordinator. This equips me with hands on skills on managing and running an organization. I wish to have my organization up and running as soon as I complete my degree course.

I can attribute a great part of my success to Kesho Kenya since it has helped me grow into an independent thinker. Whenever I count my blessings, I count Kesho twice and cannot thank them enough for the impact they have had in my life. You guys made the right choice to academically, socially and financially invest in me when I needed you most and thought all hope was lost.