Following a government report on the alarming levels of illiteracy among women in Kilifi — a paltry 30 per cent compared to 60 per cent for men — Kianda Foundation arrived in Kilifi in 2007 hoping to change this Since 2007, Tewa Training Centre has been giving hope to female school dropouts and young mothers forced into early marriages by poverty in Kuruwitu, Shariani, Vipingo, Chondari and Shauri Moyo villages in Vipingo. The centre offers courses in farming, laundry, tailoring and cookery to help the young women become self-reliant and provide for their families. Tewa Training Centre initiated outreach programmes where teachers visit the villages to train the women and help them get employment. Under the programme, three teachers traverse different villages for four days every week. The students choose to study cookery or tailoring for very little fees.
At Tewa Training College, girls denied the opportunity to pursue secondary school education for lack of fees, are trained for one year. Form four leavers are trained for two years. With more than 350 graduates over the years, Tewa's dream has yielded fruit. Almost half of the graduates are young mothers.
Kwambika Mwambire is one such beneficiary. After her graduation from Tewa in 2013, Ms Mwambire opened a cake shop. “Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I will one day operate a shop and make my own money,” says the 44-year-old mother of three who dropped out of school in class four.
Jenifer Zawadi, 22, got a job at the Prestigious Vipingo Ridge, a renowned golf club and holiday inn. “I was born into a family of eight children. My future was bleak, but Tewa rescued me and I can now support my family. I earn enough income to support my two brothers in their education,” she says. Zawadi’s father Mzee Chengo Kalume says her daughter has become a role model to other young women in the village, thanks to Tewa Training Centre. “My daughter is a big influence in our family and community. Her peers are determined to uplift their families too,” says Kalume.
Other graduates from the institution have either started small businesses or secured employment in local hotels and homes within Kilifi and in neighbouring Mombasa County. Malkia, a former student, has set up a salon and employed two people. She has also been employed at Mombasa Beach Hotel where she bakes cakes.
The young women are also trained on the values of hard work and self-respect. Tewa’s work has been noticed beyond the sisal fields of Vipingo. In 2010, various corporate firms came together to sponsor construction of a school in a 10-acre piece of land in Kuruwitu. This enabled the centre to admit more girls on a residential basis where only Sh2,000 was charged per course per term. But the sponsors pulled out in 2013, forcing Tewa to reduce the number of students from 300 to the current 50 and raised the fee to Sh5,000 per term. Through the assistance of telecommunications giant Safaricom, the centre has erected greenhouses where it plants sweet melons, watermelon and cherry tomatoes for sale. The returns have enabled tewa to subsidise the fees. The centre has also dug bore holes and put up a pump to cushion the centre from perennial water supply and help it irrigate the plants.