A girls' school that combats poverty and gender inequality

Born in Kibera, the largest slum in Kenya, Kennedy Odede saw his mother and sisters suffocated by poverty. Without the support of a father, Kennedy struggled to fill the void but was devastated by the abuse forced on his sisters. His determination to help himself and others break free from poverty and gender inequality drove him to form Shining Hope for Communities, grand prize winner of the 2010 Dell Social Innovation Challenge.

Shining Hope for Communities is educating girls in Kenya
In 2009, Kennedy and co-founder Jessica Posner founded the Kibera School for Girls, the first tuition-free school for girls in Kibera. By providing superior schooling, daily nourishment, uniforms, healthcare and school supplies all free of charge, Shining Hope gives at-risk girls the power of hope and education.

The charity's unique model links the free school for girls to essential services available to the entire community. Dell's advocacy of the charity's innovative work helped Shining Hope access the resources and support it needed to grow its reach, and since winning the challenge in 2010 the organization has expanded to include a community center for local adults and youth, clean toilets, a community health clinic, and a clean water kiosk and holding tank. In January 2012, Shining Hope officially opened their new clean water tower, Kibera's largest safe water station with a capacity of 100,000 liters. This station will provide clean and affordable water to thousands of families, and will help address the area's health and sanitation crisis.

The Dell Social Innovation Challenge
The University of Texas, with support from Dell, is building a global community of student innovators through our annual Dell Social Innovation Challenge and providing them with business mentors and cash prizes to solve the world's most pressing social issues. Since the challenge began in 2007, more than 15,000 students from 90 countries have proposed more than 3,000 ideas for tackling social and environmental problems. We've awarded more than $350,000 to teams from around the world who've had the courage, vision and passion to turn their "What Ifs" into action. Learn more about the challenge.

Challenge SolutionBenefit
Challenge:Solution:Benefit:
Crippling poverty, disease and violent crime plague the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya. Young girls are especially vulnerable to exploitation and lack supportive healthcare, sanitation and education.Help combat gender inequality by providing a tuition-free girls' school linked to a holistic community center that provides essential healthcare, education, sanitation, nutrition and computer/literacy training.As Shining Hope educates and empowers young girls, it helps change societal attitudes toward women. Residents recognize that providing support to women benefits the whole community.

A passion to protect women
The oldest of eight children, Kennedy was disturbed by the exploitative treatment of his sisters and other women, and he resolved to take action.

“I could not sit by as I saw little girls forced to trade their bodies for food. I could not stay silent while I saw such wasted human potential,” Kennedy recalled.

In 2007, Kennedy met Jessica Posner, a student from Wesleyan University in Connecticut, U.S., while she was studying abroad. Jessica became interested in Kennedy's desire to create opportunities for women in Nairobi and encouraged him to fulfill his dream of obtaining a college education in the U.S.

Kennedy enrolled at Wesleyan in 2008, and it was there that he and Jessica co-founded Shining Hope for Communities.

“My mother taught me how to care about other people and to take action to bring change. She instilled the value of women in me.”

— Kennedy Odede, President and Chief Executive Officer, Shining Hope for Communities

In 2009, the Kibera School for Girls opened the doors to its first building, designed and constructed by local community members. Shining Hope recently built a new school building that doubles the school's capacity to educate girls in Kibera.

The school currently serves 100 students in prekindergarten through third grade, and will expand to follow the students through eighth grade. Instead of paying tuition, parents of students volunteer at the school and community center, making a personal investment in their daughter's education.