The Girls’ Empowerment Project (GEP) is Heshima Kenya’s alternative education program that allows young refugee women and girls, generally 13-23 years of age, to access education and livelihood opportunities, learn about their human rights and to cultivate leadership skills. To date the GEP has served 210 young women, for 70% of these young women this is their first chance to receive any education.

The GEP is designed to serve participants with various learning levels, cultures, languages, and traumas in a unique classroom environment that provides education, social support, and life skills at their own individual pace. The project also provides an onsite daycare facility for young and new mothers.

Depending on individual needs, project participation typically ranges from one to three years. Participants engage in four transitional program components: 

1. Basic Education: Heshima Kenya’s specialized alternative education curriculum includes various learning tracks of literacy and basic math, English, and Swahili courses. The curriculum is based on the national Department of Education's Non-Formal Adult Education Guidelines. The program consists of three levels and corresponds with formal primary school grades 1-8. Depending on the grade level, participants are taught reading, writing, arithmetic, language skills, social studies, and science. The final level preps participants for the Kenya Certificate for Primary Education (KCPE).

2. Life-Skills Development: The life-skills component includes units on health, human rights and peace building, leadership, and community resources. Trainings are structured in participatory way so girls gain self-confidence and a voice in the decisions that affect their lives. Considering many girls have been denied access to information and support to protect their own sexual and reproductive health, we have a particular focus in creating a safe environment in which they can make informed choices. Topics include sexual and reproductive health and rights, sexual and gender-based violence prevention and response, HIV/AIDS prevention. Additionally, through afterschool programs and special projects like photography, poetry, and newsletter writing, we engage girls to think critically about issues affecting their own communities and how they can become agents of change.

3. Vocational Training:  In this seven-month tailoring course, participants gain skills in hand and machine stitching, measuring and cutting of fabrics, and sewing. Participants also learn a variety of stitch techniques like embroidery. In the latter two months before graduation, participants are enrolled to pre-production training where they learn advanced designs unique to the Maisha Collective. They also receive a small stipend to jumpstart their savings and transition into independence.

4. Income Generation:  Through the Maisha Collective, an innovative economic springboard that helps foster self-sufficiency, participants create and manage a line of unique hand-dyed scarves and other textiles. Participants are able to save money, open bank accounts, and achieve the ability to pay their own rent and household expenses. Additionally, Heshima Kenya is currently developing a small grant initiative for collective members to create their own enterprises.