Shariffa Keshavjee

As I was fixing the plumbing in the bathroom the other day, I remembered to thank Troop 564 of the Girl Scouts. I still have my “Miss Fix-It Badge” and thanks to it I can fix plumbing….along with a number of other cool tricks.

Then I remembered Shariffa. She is an Honorary Associate of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) internationally

  • WAGGGS
  • (based in England) and I was privileged to sit in on one of their monthly meetings in Kenya, under the Kenya Girl Guides Association. One of the things they discussed was a scholarship that they had managed to secure for a young lady from Kibera. They were having problems with getting her to come out of her comfort zone to pursue the opportunity before her.

    She needed to become a Kenya Girl Guide.

    Here is a picture of Shariffa (in light blue, bottom right) and the Shanzu Cadets.

    Later Shariffa and I visited Hawkers Market (across from Aga Khan University Hospital on Limuru Rd. in Nairobi) where she showed me the school that she is a founder member of. The school is called the “Hawkers Market Girl’s Center” and it was began for the young women in the area. Earlier I had met Wamuyu Mahinda who is a Team Leader at the HMGC)

  • Wamuyu wins award
  • She also showed me a composite pile project that the girls had set up. It was one that had brought in money to support the school and the young women’s education, many of whom are from a disadvantaged background.

    I met one of the young women who Shariffa was working closely with. She had been able to secure her a place as a masseuse at a yoga retreat center in Ukunda.

  • OM
  • (Yes I bet you didn’t know we had such beauty…).
    Then I talked to another lady who had gone through the HMGC program and had got a job at a nearby hair salon. Mercy graduated from HMGC and now works at the Aga Khan Club. Through her salary, she has chosen to make a regular donation to the HMGC in order to help support the program that helped her.

    Shariffa lent me “The Alchemist” and we sat in her garden and talked.

    She is a founding member of the Friends of the Nairobi Aboretum, the group that has helped make jogging at the aboretum possible. There are benches to sit on and listen to the amazing birds sounds (no dolby surround needed). You can also learn the names of the rare trees.

  • FONA
  • I was in awe of her energy, her stories about growing up on the shores of Lake Victoria. She still remembers a few words in Luo.

    Activism is alive in Kenya in silent ways and if we look around, it’s in the faces of our aunties, mothers, grandmothers, sisters and daughters.

    Thank you Shariffa for the inspirational time together.

    Update:
    Shariffa is now the National Vice-Chairman for the Kenya Girl Guides Association (KGGA), having began as a Brownie in 1958, moving on to become a Girl Guide, a Girl Guide Leader, a WAGGGS representative to the UN, and a Commisioner for Projects at KGGA.

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    2 responses to “Shariffa Keshavjee

    1. Thanks for sharing this, to remind us that activism is all around us and more often than not, done out of a sense of altruism and for no selfish gain.

    2. Thanks for allowing men take part in your forum. Gender equity requires advocacy that goes beyond gender lines at times, and which speaks more to the universality of equal standing and human dignity than to the prickliness of exclusivity.

      -Mark

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