Heshima Kenya serves East Africa’s most vulnerable refugees – orphaned and separated refugee girls in Nairobi, Kenya. The young women of Heshima Kenya have been separated and orphaned due to war, conflict, violence and terrorism. 

They have fled persecution in their home countries and have been torn from their families. While many have witnessed the death of their parents, others believe their families might be alive but have no knowledge of where they are. With very limited access to formal assistance in Nairobi for shelter, education, and medical care, they often suffer extreme poverty, as well as cope with the physical and emotional scars from war and, in many cases, abuse and exploitation.

Unaccompanied refugee girls and young women face unique risk factors, including:

  • Sexualized violence and physical abuse
  • Marginalization and living in impermanent and hostile environments
  • Domestic servitude
  • Higher risk of depression, PTSD and stress-related conditions
  • Higher rates of illiteracy and less avenues for achieving self-sufficiency
  • Higher risk of forced marriage and early pregnancy
  • Higher risk of FGM/FGC and complications as a result of surviving FGM/FGC
  • Xenophobia, extortion and persecution from host communities 

The young women Heshima Kenya serves exemplify these vulnerabilities. Upon entry to our programs:

  • 60% report experiences of SGBV, although this number is believed to be closer to 80%, as many do not report these incidents due to fear and shame
  • 20% have experienced forced marriage
  • 60% are mothers already, typically due to sexualized violence
  • 70% experience illiteracy and have had little to no formal schooling prior to enrollment

You can learn more about our girls and the refugee crisis in our research report, Moved and Shaken.