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.
Heshima Kenya is the first organization in Kenya devoted to protecting unaccompanied minors and separated children and youth between the ages of 13 to 23 primarily from Somalia, Ethiopia, DR Congo, Sudan, South Sudan, Rwanda, and Burundi.
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 transient and hostile environments
- Domestic servitude
- Higher risk of depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (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 Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)/Female Genital Cutting (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:
- 70% of beneficiaries reported incidents of sexual and gender-based violence; this percentage is believed to be closer to 80% as survivors are hesitant to disclose out of fear of incrimination
- 57% traveled by truck to reach Nairobi, a means of travel that increases the likelihood of sexual assault by four times
- 53% of the young women in our programs has one child, sometimes two, often as a result of forced pregnancy or limited reproductive alternatives
You can learn more about our girls and the refugee crisis in our research report, Moved and Shaken.
Want to send a message of support to one of the young women we serve? You can do so here.