Heshima Kenya, a nonprofit organization operating in Nairobi, Kenya, is the first organization in Kenya devoted to protecting unaccompanied and separated refugee children and youth, with a special focus in supporting women and girls ages 13 to 23 years old from Somalia, Ethiopia, DR Congo, Sudan, Rwanda, and Burundi.

We provide shelter, education, vocational training, case management support, and advocacy to participants and their children who have experienced the detrimental effects of war, the loss of their families, and, in many cases, kidnapping, rape, trafficking, unlawful detainment, and torture. 

We also mobilize members of the refugee community through educational outreach. At the core of Heshima Kenya’s model is the creation of a social network that empowers girls and young women to strive for economic self-sufficiency and become community leaders in their own right.



With competing needs to support over 600,000 refugees displaced in Kenya, humanitarian organizations do not have the capacity to meet the specialized needs of unaccompanied and separated children and youth, especially adolescent girls. This is especially demonstrative in Nairobi, where there are only a handful of organizations to support the growing number urban refugees, many whom will never return home or be resettled to a third country of asylum.

Heshima Kenya, established in January 2008 as by co-founders Anne Sweeney and Talyn Good, closes this protection gap and has established a safe community that is led by the young women we empower. Not young children, but not yet confident adults, Heshima Kenya programs target refugee adolescent girls because they experience the highest rates of exploitation and abuse. Nearly 60% of the 365 girls and young women supported by Heshima Kenya have experienced some form of sexual and gender-based violence.



Five years after its founding, Heshima Kenya is redefining how holistic models of protection should work for this population.

Our innovative programs do not just treat the discreet symptoms of the girls’ disenfranchisement. We take a holistic and rights-based approach that address their entire experience as refugees and young women with programs that protect, nurture, educate, and empower. Through Heshima Kenya, girls build a foundation for economic independence and develop themselves as decision-makers and agents of change in their communities.

Fundamental to our approach is to strengthen social networks within the refugee community and help empower individuals to protect and mobilize others with information about their own rights. Often times this includes rebuilding the trust between the girls of our program and the same community where much of the exploitation and violence originated.

Heshima Kenya believes that with holistic care and support that addresses their experiences, these young women will help to lead informed and safer communities that protect vulnerable populations rather than exploit and expel them.