Empowering Women, Enriching Communities: A Celebration of Resilience in Kwale County.

April 2, 2024

Written By: Cynthia Omondi

A 3-day festival was held in Kwale County, Kenya, to celebrate the International Women’s Day. Convened by Samba Sports Youth Agenda and Vice Versa Global, it included a combination of activism, sports, and community engagement, demonstrating resilience and unity. Led by Governor Fatuma Achani, and through grassroots initiatives and collective action, the festival exemplified the transformative power of solidarity, offering hope and progress in Kwale’s landscape.

Kwale County, rich in culture and natural beauty, lies in the heart of Kenya’s coastal region. Home to the renowned Diani Beach and tourist hub, it is where the azure waters of the Indian Ocean meet the golden sands. However, behind this serene facade lies a tale of resilience and struggle, particularly for the women who call it home. Despite being among the few counties in Kenya with a female Governor, Her Excellency Fatuma Achani, Kwale still grapples with myriad social, cultural and economic challenges, particularly concerning women.

Among these challenges is the plight of teenage pregnancies, a critical issue that shadows the aspirations of many young girls in the region, and the ever-pressing Climate Change. Against this backdrop, a three-day festival unfolded in Ukunda Show Ground, Kwale County, to commemorate International Women’s Day. The festival kicked off with a poignant gesture—a beach clean-up exercise and climate action dialogue at Amigos Beach. “We are here to fight against all the injustices women face. I could not be more grateful to all organizations that have joined us,” remarked the Governor when she flagged off the endeavor.

“As you can see, we have so many placards condemning all acts of violence against women. Let us embrace the spirit of togetherness in this journey of empowering our women,” she said. She embodied simplicity and genuine leadership as she joined locals in the exercise. Unlike the high-security, protocol-laden events often witnessed in Nairobi and other counties, this was a refreshing display of community engagement, where the leader walked side by side with her constituents.

During the festival, football games were a significant part of the celebration. They served as a platform to raise awareness about women’s empowerment. A total of ten girls’ football teams, each with twenty players, competed against each other for three days, striving to win the prestigious trophy to be awarded on the final day. Samba Sports Youth Agenda and Vice Versa Global, the key convenors, successfully brought together over fifty organizations, international and community-based. The essence of the gathering was to celebrate women and highlight their achievements, making it more than just an event—a movement for change.

The festival was aptly named the IWD and SDGs Mini Olympics, emphasizing its dual purpose of celebrating International Women’s Day and promoting the Sustainable Development Goals. This unique approach aims at localizing global goals, bridging the gap between international agendas and local realities.

“In previous events, I have always sat at the back listening to the normal obvious speeches by leaders. But today, I feel so happy to be in the front seat and have my voice heard. I choose to celebrate me and other women who, within their humble capacities, contribute positively to the growth of our society,” Barke Rashid is heard as she gives an interview by the beach. She was discussing the work of her founded CBO, Diani Cerebral Palsy Caregivers support group, in creating awareness in Kwale communities.

Day one of the festival saw the continuation of various activities aimed at empowering women. Through Christine Hess, The United States Embassy played a significant role by offering sessions on training in grant writing. It was heartening to witness women, particularly those running Community-Based Organizations (CBOs), actively participating in these sessions. One woman, in particular, caught my attention. She sat attentively with her baby peacefully asleep on her back, symbolizing the sacrifices made by women in pursuit of betterment for themselves and their communities.

As the golden hues of the sunset painted the sky, participants gathered against the backdrop of nature’s splendor for a unique cinematic experience. The movie screening of ‘Watatu,’ which means ‘the three’ in Swahili, was entertaining and thought-provoking, exploring peace in the local context. It explores the complexities of youth dynamics in a community grappling with social challenges. The aspirations of young people are overshadowed by issues like drug abuse, radicalization, and community insecurity. “The film lays bare the harsh reality that many youths face,” Ramadhan Tanariva from Samba Sports Youth Agenda explained.

“We screened it to portray its central narrative in the role of parents, particularly mothers, in shaping the trajectories of their children’s lives,” he added. The film depicts how mothers often shield their sons, even when suspicions of criminal involvement loom. In the face of these challenges, organizations like Samba Sports have emerged as beacons of hope by catalyzing positive change through their interventions. Through sports, arts, and mentorship programs, Samba Sports has successfully guided many young people away from criminal activity, providing them alternative paths for personal growth and development.

High Temperatures, Higher Spirits

As the festival moved into its second day, the excitement and energy only increased. Although the coastal climate proved to be a challenge for some of us who were not used to such temperatures, everyone remained determined to enjoy the day’s activities. Undeterred by the heat, participants threw themselves into the festivities with unwavering enthusiasm. The mass cycling event was the highlight of the day. It was a powerful symbol of women’s empowerment and resilience.

The cyclists started their journey from the Diani beach junction and passed through various landmarks, including Carrefour, Lofta Hotel, Mvindeni kona ya Musa, and Ibiza, and finally culminated at the Ukunda showground. Throughout the journey, the cyclists drummed up support for women’s empowerment through key messages branded on their T-shirts, caps, and scarves and making public announcements via a public address system mounted on an accompanying car.

As the cyclists made their way along the route, they were met with cheers from the spectators who offered words of encouragement and support. It was an awe-inspiring sight, seeing women from different backgrounds and walks of life coming together in solidarity, all pedaling towards a shared vision of empowerment and equality. Despite the scorching temperatures, their spirits remained undaunted, fueled by the collective sense of purpose and camaraderie. As they crossed the finish line at the showground, there was a palpable sense of achievement and triumph. This event showcased the physical strength and resilience of women, demonstrating the power of unity and solidarity in achieving progress.

Beneath the protective embrace of a mango tree’s sprawling canopy, a serene space was created that offered a sanctuary from the relentless sun. It was a place where meaningful conversations unfolded, and neat woven mats adorned the ground, inviting people of all ages and backgrounds to gather and share their thoughts. Schoolchildren, community members, and representatives from international organizations like Plan International, HIVOS and the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) came together for candid discussions on pressing issues.

Amidst these intergenerational dialogues, a common theme emerged—the need for greater community involvement and resource mobilization. Participants shared their experiences and aspirations, highlighting the remarkable grassroots initiatives already underway, such as beach clean-ups and tree planting, all aimed at mitigating the impacts of climate change. However, they also expressed frustration at the lack of support and resources to scale up their efforts.

“I wish we could have more sessions like this,” one participant remarked. “We have so many ideas at the grassroots level and are doing so much for our community. Yet we lack the resources and information on how to access funds that could help us make an even bigger impact.” This sentiment resonated deeply with those present, underscoring the importance of bridging the gap between local initiatives and external support mechanisms. As the dialogue continued, there was a shared sense of urgency and determination to find practical solutions to these challenges. It became evident that, by fostering collaboration and providing access to resources and information, communities could unlock their full potential in addressing pressing issues like climate change and environmental degradation.

Women’s Economic Empowerment

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day was “Invest in Women, Accelerate Progress,” which is what the IWD and SDG’s Mini Olympics were all about. Amidst all the excitement, a group of widows made a quiet but significant contribution to the festivities. Led by the Tuwajali Wajane Kwale Initiative, these women ensured that participants were well-fed throughout the three-day event. As food vendors, they showcased their culinary skills, preparing a delightful array of coastal cuisine that left mouths watering and stomachs satisfied.

From freshly made chapatis to sumptuous seafood dishes, besides coconut-infused delicacies, the widows served up a feast worthy of the celebration. Their dishes not only tantalized the taste buds but also showcased the rich culinary heritage of the coastal region. Their participation highlighted the importance of investing in women’s empowerment and economic opportunities. Through initiatives like the Tuwajali Wajane Kwale Initiative, widows can rebuild their lives and contribute meaningfully to their communities. By supporting them as food vendors, attendees enjoyed delicious meals and directly contributed to their empowerment and livelihoods.

After all, what is a festival without food?

The climax of the festivities came on March 8th, the day globally commemorated as International Women’s Day. It was marked by panel discussions, speeches, and awards ceremonies, building on the activities from the preceding two days. The Mini-Olympics, as the name suggests, brought together more than three thousand participants. Many showcased their talents in both indoor and outdoor games. Participants competed for various prizes, including shopping vouchers, cash, balls, jerseys, and trophies.

The day began with the highly anticipated women’s mini-marathon, drawing competitors eager to claim the coveted prize. Throughout the day, there were cultural interludes such as traditional dances, poetry recitations, and performances by local artists. Women political leaders, led by Kwale Women Representative Hon. Fatuma Masito, graced the event, underscoring the importance of empowering women to take on leadership roles.

A clear message resonated throughout—the importance of empowering more women to step into leadership positions. The culmination was an awards ceremony where the top three winners from each category were honored. Among them was Sofia Nekesa, who emerged victorious in the women’s mini-marathon and multiple other categories. “I want to thank God for giving me the energy to participate in the marathon. It was a tough race, but I am grateful to have emerged as the winner,” she said. “This day is special to all women worldwide as it recognizes them and their achievements. With the prizes I have won, I can now afford to pay school fees for my daughter,” she added, expressing her gratitude. Kombani Queens were the proud winners of the women’s football tournament, going home with the trophy, several footballs and branded jerseys.

The event concluded with jubilant celebrations, marking a milestone in the history of the County. “This one-of-a-kind event has never been witnessed in Kwale County before,” remarked one of the local partners, encapsulating the significance and impact of a community festival. As the sun set and people dispersed, the echoes of laughter and togetherness lingered in the air, a testament to the power of collective action and solidarity (SDG 17). In Kwale County, amidst the challenges that persist, a beacon of hope has been planted through this event, fueled by the unwavering spirit of its women.

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Meet The Team

Copyright © Samba Sports Youth Agenda. 2023
Nsinazo Waraka

Director Nsinazo Waraka is a Dynamic, Detail-oriented and Collaborative professional with broad experience in Senior strategic leadership and advisory roles.

Holding a Master of Science Degree, Development Finance, from University of Reading, UK, and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Economics and Sociology, Na. Nsinazo brings to the board a wealth of unbeatable experience in financial management and audit, policy analysis, strategic leadership as well as a passion for women empowerment.

Having worked for more than a decade at the Central Bank of Kenya, and managing a Media institution currently, SambaSports is safer in relation to tenets of financial accountability, PR and strategic visibility.

Dr. Mwanasiti Bendera

Dr. Mwanasiti Bendera is the current Director, Natural Resources Management and Infrastructure, at the Coast Development Authority.

A firm but soft spoken Motivational Speaker, Dr. Mwanasiti holds a PhD in Chemistry, Chemical Ecology, from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.

She also holds a Masters Degree, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry, from Egerton University.

Being a local girl, born and raised in Kwale County, Msambweni area, It is utter magical to have Dr. Siti in the board, as she signifies triumph from the perception that coastal people, especially girls, either don’t value education or just don’t do well. Studying Chemistry to a PhD level for a local girl is beyond pride, …it is testament to the fact that Impossible is an illusion.

Norah Chao

Holding a Masters Degree in Strategic Management from Kenya Methodist University, and a holder of a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration (Human Resources), Director Norah brings onboard an oversight capacity on the management aspect of the organization, particularly on Staff Welfare and wellness.

Director Norah works as a Human Resources officer for Teachers Service Commission, and she has achieved so much in terms of organizing the work force, capacity building and motivation of human resources.

Aside from her core work, Ms. Norah is an avid champion of Girls and Women Empowerment, which is a core pillar of our work at SambaSports Youth Agenda. To that end, she founded Nahugombe CBO, which is the platform she uses to engage girls and young women in Kinango, through Life Skills trainings and other strategic initiatives to prevent Sexual and Gender Based Violence, especially focusing on preventing Teenage Pregnancies in Kinango Sub county.

Joria Sudi Mwakwambirwa

Director Joria Sudi is a Program management expert, with at least 10 years of experience, managing projects at high levels, on behalf of a host of reputed international organizations.

Holding a Masters Degree in Project Planning and Management from the University of Nairobi, and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology, Director Joria brings a wealth of expertise to the board, in terms of program planning, management and oversight.

As if that wasn’t top drawer enough, Director is finalizing her Diploma in Counselling Psychology from Amani Counseling and Training Institute, to augment her authority in the current dynamic spheres of program management, where the Globe is keen on Mental Wellness.

For @SambaSports Youth Agenda, Mental Wellness, community care and relational well-being are foundational to all our projects, therefore, it is well fitting to have oversight personnel that appreciate and influence that aspect of our work.

Part of her great work has been appreciated at Forum for International Cooperation where she has steadily grown through the ranks since 2013, Chemonics International Inc., Kwetu Training Centre, Kwetu Training Centre, and many more.

Nicholas Kisara

Director Nick is a tested and proven management consultant, thriving in the banking sector as an award winning Sales Manager over a span of 16 years.

Winning annual Sales awards at Barclays Bank (2009), Barclays Bank (2010), NIC Bank (2013), and Chase Bank (2015), Director Nick has been a proven force in his management duties at the highest levels in banking, something that he brings to the table at SambaSports.

Apart from sales management, Director Nick thrived as a Relationship Manager at Housing Finance Limited, bringing on board top leaders and influencers to the bank during his tenure.

Holding a bachelor’s degree in Business Management and Leadership from the Management University of Africa, and Bachelors of Business Management from Mount Kenya University, Nairobi, Director Nick is not just a management consultant, but also an avid community engager, passionate contributor to Youth empowerment initiatives.

For SambaSports to have Director Nick sit on the Board is a massive win, and a catalyst for transformative attitude cultivation in our programs.

Director Juma Nassoro

Director Juma Nassoro is an astute Community Program management expert, with at least 8 years of project management experience with reputed organizations, across the coastal region of Kenya.

Holding a Bachelor’s Degree in Commerce from the University of Nairobi, Director Juma exudes skills and significant capacity matrix in the field of Environmental management, Climate Action, Agriculture, Mental Health, ICT, Data & Analytics, Life Skills and Entrepreneurship.

Over the last 8 years, Director Juma has left legacies from his Management roles at National Cohesion and Integration Commission (Community Policing Trainer), KEMRI ( Tumikia Project), Global Trauma Project, and currently Program Manager at HERI-Kenya ( Health & Environmental Research Institute.

Director Juma brings dynamism, passion and a lens of diversity to SambaSports Youth Agenda.

Mwanaisha Kuwania
Co-Founder, Gender & Special Programs Coordinator
Coming from a Media background and a renown thespian, having graced the stage on Participatory Educative Theatre with SAFE Pwani organization, and also involved in local soap operas on national television, Mwanaisha found her niche with community development, with a special lens on girls empowerment.
Having come from a village life in the interior of Kwale County, Mwanaisha was met with restrictive cultures and traditions, with even parents not fully appreciating the power of arts and other alternatives in empowering girls and boys in general. Through that experience, Mwanaisha has found the passion, the zeal and commitment to use arts, skits and values infusion, to lift girls and young women to their dreams.
Apart from her Diploma in Mass Communication  from Aviation College, she has, over the years at SambaSports, gained unbeatable skills and experiences in Facilitation skills, Value Based Education, Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights, Child protection, Life Skills techniques and Mental Health support through the Kumekucha, Kumekucha Quest models and the tree of Life Model of mental health sensitization skills gained from her two weeks training in Zimbabwe.
Mwanaisha comes along as a charismatic young female leader, who has held forte for most of the female SambaSports team members, who joined SambaSports as volunteer Girl mentors under her coordination.
Mariam Mohammed
Drug Abuse Counselor

Mariam has a background in Community Development and Social Work. She is a trained Mediator and Trauma Counselor. Mariam is a ToT on Value-Based Education and an ambassador to Young Cities. She shares a considerable amount of experience in her work with the community playing various roles as Girl Child mentor, Trauma Counselor for youths and adolescents, and mediating. Mariam is a long-serving Project Assistant for the Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health Induction project. She shares the unending passion for community service also traveling and socializing describe her best interests.

Abigael Ndizi Kavithu

Abigael is an enthusiastic and passionate mentor for adolescents in school with a reputable public speaking ability. She is pursuing education at Kenyatta University. Her interest in child protection has seen her pursuing a certificate in child and drug abuse counselling at Amani Training Institute College. She has been a member since 2018, seeing herself be part of several projects including the Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health Induction (ASRHI) and Kumekucha Quest. Abigael enjoys inspiring and influencing healthier behavior among adolescents—sees herself as an agent of change.

Riziki Hamisi Mwakusirikwa

Riziki shares a wealth of experience in community development. She is trained as a trainer of trainers adequately in several areas including life skills, crime prevention, and counselling. Riziki is also pursuing a diploma un counselling psychology at Amani Training Institute College. She is an active advocate on GBV, land issues, women and youth mentorship. Her love for the community has seen her through various projects including Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health Induction (ASRHI), Shared Futures Project, and Kumekucha Quest