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Celebrating a young woman breaking barriers in Kenya

© UNICEFKenya/2018/Kariuki
Matatu graffiti designer, Tsara 'Arts' Mumbi, stands with the matatu she designed for International Women's Day 2018.

UNICEF Kenya partners with the Australian High Commission for International Women’s Day 2018

By Deqa Jama and Daisy Serem-Esinapwaka

NAIROBI, Kenya, 8 March 2018: International Women’s Day, a global day celebrated every year on 8 March, brings the world together to not only celebrate the achievements of women but to also collectively strive for gender parity. This year’s theme was ‘Press for Progress,’ a strong call for action to improve the lives of women and girls.

UNICEF Kenya and the Australian High Commission came together to mark the day in a unique way by celebrating Kenyan women and girls who break barriers that society puts in their way. One such woman is Sarafina Mumbi, popularly known as Tsarah ‘Arts’ who works as a graffiti designer for matatus [public transport vans].

Matatus, which are the choice mode of transport for most Kenyans, fill the streets of Nairobi decorated with custom artwork and lights that represent urban youth culture. The matatu industry is male-dominated but this didn’t stop Tsarah, who has a passion for design and brings a unique style and bold artwork to matatu culture.

Girls who inspired the matatu design attend the launch event at the Nairobi National Museum. ©UNICEFKenya/2018/Kariuki

UNICEF Kenya and the Australian High Commission partnered with Tsarah to design a special matatu celebrating women in Kenya. Ahead of creating the design, Tsarah engaged with 14 girls in a one-day workshop to discuss the challenges they face growing up female in Kenya, and also their hopes for the future. Their voices are reflected in the matatu artwork, which also features prominent, Kenyan female figures that champion girls’ rights.

13 year old Vanessa Fumbula who took part in the Girls’ Workshop says, “After this workshop and after meeting Tsarah, I have found that women can do anything.”

Matatu art is a form of self-expression for Tsarah who has faced many barriers to enter the industry and continues to meet daily challenges due to being a woman. However, Tsarah has a passion for design and hopes to pave the way for other young women venturing into any male-dominated fields.

© UNICEFKenya/2018/Kariuki
UNICEF Kenya, the Australian High Commission together with girls and women taking part in the special matatu launch event for International Women's Day.

The special matatu was unveiled during a pre-event for International Women’s Day on 7 March 2018. The event brought together development partners and organizations working towards gender parity in Kenya, especially for the most vulnerable girls and women from poor communities.

Speaking during the launch event the Australian Deputy High Commissioner Jonathan Ball said, “International Women’s Day is a chance to motivate our friends, families, colleagues and communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.”

Across the world women like Tsarah are making positive gains day by day, but many continue to meet daily challenges due to being a woman. In Kenya, nearly a third of girls suffer some form of sexual violence before they reach 18; and almost one in four girls becomes a child bride. Harmful practices affecting girls and women cause multiple deprivations to their rights to health, education, employment and participation in decision-making.

UNICEF Kenya Deputy Representative, Patrizia DiGiovanni said, “The challenges for girls living in Kenya are indisputable; today is a great opportunity to focus on the positive strides young women are making across the world.”

This exceptional project for International Women’s Day was an opportunity to showcase and celebrate what girls and women can achieve, despite the challenges they face. We hope that it influences action to empower girls, such as equipping them with the skills needed to secure jobs, to reduce early and forced marriage and teenage pregnancy, and granting greater access to culturally sensitive reproductive and menstrual health services.

Tsarah says, “It has been good to create something that I hope lifts up girls and women across Nairobi. I encourage all females to be confident, passionate in what they do and to believe in themselves.”



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