As she grew up at Kiwandani village in the suburb of Kilifi town, 28 years ago, Eva Mvera Kazungu was alarmed by the big number of young girls dropping out of school in the county.
With many of them pushed out by poverty to start fending for themselves and the increasing number of unwanted pregnancy, she was down trodden by the fact that the society was facing one of its biggest test of its time.
“How would these young girls, most of them in their teens come out of this situation and face a bright future.
I sought for answers and in the end, concluded that as a girl from the same county, I had a role to play in addressing their plight. I needed to think fast,” Eve said in a recent interview with the Nation.
She quickly mobilized a number of her peers in Kilifi and started Fimbo Youth Initiative, a mentorship program to keep young girls safe and thrive in their lives.
But even as she went from school to school as a start up to mentor the youths, little did she know that the initiative would turn out to be an attraction and assist her to be among this year’s Mandela
Washington fellows in the civic leadership track category . She went to the US in June and returned to the country on August 4, only four days before the General Elections.
The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative. It is geared towards young and accomplished professionals in the ages of 25 and 35.
It provides for academic, coursework, leadership training, networking, professional opportunities and support for activities in their community at a U.S. university or college.
A broadcast journalist from Kenya Institute of Mass Communication and currently a second year student in communication and public relations at Mount Kenya University, Eve used her internship at the Kilifi county information office to pin stories about the plight of young girls in the county but still running the initiative by the side.
“After writing stories on defilement and seeing what was happening I felt I wasn't doing anything that is why the idea of coming up with an initiative started building in me.
In February 2015, I attended a mentorship program with my fellow, co-founders in Kilifi. What was aired at the meeting opened our eyes more on the sorry situation of these girls.
That is when we decided to come up with the Initiative since we felt there were a lot of social injustices happening then,” she said.
‘Fimbo’ is a Kiswahili word for cane, and Eve said it was meant at ‘caning’ the social injustices happening in Kilifi, with defilement being one of them.
“Apart from the mentorship program, I am also working on a rescue centre project and my goal is to establish MVERA foundation,” she said.
So how did she found herself in the prestigious Fellowship program that is the envy of many young Africans?
She said that one of the Fimbo youth members posted a link on how to apply for The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders on the initiative’s whatssup page.
That was in September 2016 and after she applied, never bothered to check her email because she was least sceptical about winning the chance of going to the US through the program.
“Applying itself was a tedious process and after filling all the required information, I forgot about but in February this year, I checked my mails and I saw an email from American Ambassador Robert Godec informing that I had been considered. The email required to avail myself for interviews at the American Embassy in Nairobi.
A call from the Embassy followed days later confirming the same and so I went for the interviews,” Eve said.
She said this year, Africa had 64,000 applications that were received, with Kenyan having 6,000 applications.
“Only 200 Kenyans were shortlisted and after the interview, 60 were selected to go. In total, those selected for the program in Africa were 1,000 and I was delighted and happy by being one of them,” she said.
She left the country on June 15 and after a seven week stay in the land of opportunities, returned to the country on August 4.
“My journey was long because I had to travel through Germany, and then connect a flight to Chicago, then to Indianapolis before finally arriving at Indiana University Bloomington in the Indiana state.
“We stayed for four weeks in Bloomington together with the other 24 visiting Mandela fellows in our category. Then we went to Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis on July 17 for two weeks of meeting our Indianapolis counterparts,” she said.
Later on went to Washington DC for the biggest African congress for three days where she met different people from around the globe, an experience she said will forever linger in her mind.
They then returned home to embark on their payback proposals she is sure will be able to make a significant mark in her life.
“There were a lot of culture shocks during my stay in US. First I never thought that there are American beggars. I saw a lot of them in the streets of Indiana and even in Washington DC. But I discovered that the Americans do not tell these stories. They will never tell of their ugly sides but rather concentrate on the better side of their lives. This is contrary in Kenya where we tend to tell all our evil and dirty that always scare investors to the country,” she said.
While in the land of Donald Trump, Eve did not get her favourite dish ugali on the table whenever it was either dinner or lunch time.
“They would tell us like, ok guys it is time for lunch. Going to the dining room, I always saw snacks, pizza, bugger and salads. I looked upon to seeing my favourite ugali but it was not there,” she said.
She has now focused her energy on marking sure that her mentorship program succeed and bring change to the Kilifi community where girls will have equal opportunities like boys in education and their welfare.