Heshima Kenya's goal is to continue exercising leadership through forums that advocate awareness, education and support for refugee girls. We participate in various Kenyan and international panels and policy groups to advance dialogue and solutions about the neglect of Nairobi's urban refugees and the protection of unaccompanied refugee children and youth. This includes our work surrounding education and outreach to help refugees in Nairobi access protection and services. Heshima Kenya also conducts research to expose human rights violations experienced by unaccompanied refugee girls and young women in an effort to strengthen and reform policies and advance the quality of life for refugee youth around the world.
Community Outreach and Mobilization
Heshima Kenya is also making active strides to strengthen local networks by promoting awareness and education about gender-based violence prevention and response mechanisms to refugee women and men. We are also leading information campaigns about the critical need for refugees to obtain legal registration in Nairobi, especially within the Somali refugee community.
Our outreach informs, mobilizes and empowers refugee women to create safe spaces and disseminate information about human rights, reproductive health, community resources, and gender-based violence.
Through these information campaigns and formation of women’s groups within the Congolese and Somali communities, we are developing long-term relationships with women who have experienced difficulty with accessing assistance. In turn, they are becoming empowered to support vulnerable girls and women, share information, and build safer communities.
As of 2015 Heshima Kenya will be entering a formal implementing partnership with UNHCR. The partnership will aid our existing outreach programs in addition to helping create child-friendly spaces at three satellite locations, partnering with local churches, mosques, and social halls to successfully engage children in games, music, arts, and sports. Heshima Kenya will also partner with school patrons of the targeted public schools to manage existing children's clubs and support with identification and protection strategies of vulnerable refugee children.
- The Sexual Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) Working Group
In 2009, Heshima Kenya established and began leading the Sexual Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) Stakeholders Committee in Nairobi. In 2010 we were invited to co-host the UNHCR SGBV Working Group and continue to do so today.
The committee has resulted in the creation of a framework that works with UNHCR and our partner organizations to address referral strategies for and engage in effective dialogue about survivors of gender-based violence who would otherwise have fallen between the cracks of protection. This committee has set a precedent from which to build and expand upon, especially in educating other local agencies, communities and government offices about the specialized needs of unaccompanied and separated children and youth who are more vulnerable to sexual gender-based violence.
Through this committee and formal partnerships with UNHCR and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Heshima Kenya has been able to identify vulnerable women and children in Nairobi who have experience SGBV and help them find shelter, education, and psychosocial counseling.
- Understanding and Reporting Trends
Heshima Kenya’s outreach has enabled us to begin collecting data to assess and understand trends within the Somali and growing urban Congolese community, especially in terms of migration patterns, risks and exploitation in transit, reproductive health needs, and barriers to livelihood assistance that result in higher rates of prostitution. Through our customized database and ongoing monitoring, we are creating information and reports about the specialized needs of the young women in our programs and those still hidden in the communities.
This data will ultimately inform future research about urban refugees and contribute towards the development of stronger programs for this community with the eventual goal of expanding successful practices to other urban refugee communities.
In addition to cultivating funding, Heshima Kenya’s Chicago office is responsible for promoting awareness of the urban refugee crisis in Chicago and beyond and engaging a supportive domestic grassroots base on the issue. Our work includes speaking at events, universities, conferences, partnering with like-minded organizations such as Amnesty International USA and raising funds and awareness through events like our Annual Fashion Challenge.