Shannon Murphy is the Executive Director of the KGSA Foundation. She joined KGSA in April 2016 and is honored to be a part of a community of caring people passionate about the potential of girls to change the world! She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Hawaii and then joined the Peace Corps, where she volunteered in Bulgaria for two years. Having loved her experience abroad, she came back to the US to get her master’s degree in global social work from Boston College. Prior to joining KGSA, she worked as the director of development for a social enterprise in Nairobi, as well as in various fundraising roles for non-profit organizations in Boston and Bangkok. She currently lives in Boston with her finance and new puppy.
KGSA works in the areas of girls’ education, health and nutrition, and youth development. KGSA’s provides secondary education to over 120 girls living in the Kibera slum of Nairobi annually. The school provides free education, emphasizes leadership and character development through extracurricular activities, and employs university trained teachers, setting it apart from other schools in the slum. We believe in a holistic approach to education with the understanding that students need to have healthy minds and bodies to be able to learn. Students with empty stomachs can’t concentrate and so KGSA provides all students with a free lunch each day.
We partner with a local health clinic to provide the students with wellness exams and other primary healthcare services including immunizations and STI/HIV screenings. We have also partnered with organizations such as Ruby Cup and Femme International to provide the students with feminine hygiene products and women’s health and sexual education. KGSA started as a girls' soccer team and, in addition to our work in education, continues to champion the importance of sports and extracurricular activities. The school has an active club program including journalism, drama, cooking, computer and business clubs as well as a soccer team. These programs help students discover their passions, develop their talents, avoid idleness outside of school, and improve their self-esteem and emotional wellbeing. (Plus, they’re fun!)
KGSA is working to address access to education for girls living in poverty in the Kibera slum of Kenya. Kenya offers universal primary education, but unfortunately, there are not enough spots in public high schools to absorb all of the students from primary school. The families of our students are living in poverty and unable to afford the high cost of private school.
KGSA exists to fill this gap and provide a high school education for girls who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford it. KGSA focuses solely on girls because they face additional barriers in accessing education. Due to traditional gender norms, if a family only has enough money to send one child to school, they will likely send their son over their daughter. When a woman gets married in Kenya, her husband’s family often pays her parents a dowry or bride-price and then the daughter becomes the responsibility of her husband. This means that there is a financial incentive for girls to get married rather than finish school, it is one less mouth to feed and one less school fee to pay.
KGSA has provided free secondary education to over 300 girls. School is a safe and productive place for girls to develop in their teenage years. Secondary education provides the girls with an alternative to the perils of idleness or hopelessness that can lead to drugs use, criminal behavior, and unsafe sex, which in turn can result in teen pregnancy, AIDS, or early marriage.
The World Bank reports that Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest adolescent fertility rate in the world, but research has shown that adolescent girls in school are less likely to have an unintended pregnancy. USAID reports, that for each year that a girl stays in school, her income can increase by 15 to 25 percent. Additionally, educated women are more likely to send their children to school and invest their income in their families.
KGSA's work goes beyond education. All of our students participate in extra-curricular activities, which are proven to increase academic performance and emotional well-being, and reduce incidences of drug use, criminal behavior, and teen pregnancy. We also provide students with a free meal, which the World Food Programme reports provides a strong incentive to send girls to school, as well as helps to increase attendance, decrease drop-out rates, and improve cognitive abilities. For some children, a meal at school might be their own source of daily nutrition, without which hunger and nutrient deficiencies can cause.