Fatuma's Journey


"Before my education at Heshima Kenya, my world was limited. I am ten times happier today than I was yesterday. My family would be very proud of me."


Growing up in Mogadishu, Somalia, Fatuma had always dreamed of attending school. In Somali culture girls’ education is often overlooked. Plus, Fatuma's family couldn’t afford her school fees. During the day she helped with household chores while her mother sold tomatoes as the family’s main source of income. Despite the challenges of poverty, her family managed to stay together.

That ended in early 2009 when Fatuma was 15. A grenade assault took the lives of her mother, father, and brother. Her other two sisters managed to flee, but she has not seen or heard from them since. After the attack, Fatuma escaped to Nairobi, Kenya. She was referred to Heshima Kenya and enrolled in the Girls Empowerment Project, where she finally began her education.

It has been three years since Fatuma joined our programs, and she is flourishing. She can now read and write and has learned both English and Swahili. She has become a respected member of the Heshima community and currently works for The Maisha Collective, our income-generating program. She says, “My education has helped me understand things I’ve never known. For 15 years I didn’t know how to read or write. Now I can hold a pen; I can write my feelings.”

Fatuma is thankful she was not forced to marry at an early age. Forced marriages are commonplace in Somali culture and to marry young often means a total lack of education for girls. According to UNICEF, Somalia has one of the lowest enrollment rates for primary schools in the world, and girls make up only an estimated one-third of all students who do enroll.

Fatuma is a bright an friendly girl who loves to meet new people and learn about new things, “I love talking to people who are not Somali and to learn from them, to speak in different languages, and to finally feel heard and understood.”