SIU student brings women’s empowerment to Kenya


By Tierra Carpenter, @Tierramc_

While most students were just starting their spring break, SIU student Hannah Neely was finishing up an eight-day trip in Kenya in the hopes to empower young women there.

Neely, a junior from Chicago studying speech communications, raised $3,000 to fund a trip to Mombasa, Kenya, with a group of people from Global Girls, Inc., a youth mentoring and performing arts organization based in Chicago.

The group visited three schools in Mombasa, where they chanted, sang songs and compared lifestyles with young girls there. 


“We let them know in different ways and different activities that they were powerful, that they were beautiful, that they were strong,” Neely said.

They taught them a dance to a song about women being beautiful without needing a mirror to tell them. Neely said the girls really connected with that message.

She said this trip brought her one step closer to deciding what she wants to focus her own nonprofit organization on in the future.

“I went out there knowing in mind that I wanted to find out what is the need in Africa,” Neely said. “Me going on this trip gave me that opportunity to immerse in a culture in the continent where I plan to do much work and see what needs need to be met.”

While in Mombassa, Neely also started filming her documentary, “Women’s Empowerment in Africa,” which will show photos and videos from the trip. She said the documentary, which she hopes to release in June, helps inspire people to support and join the women’s empowerment movement.

“Women’s empowerment is much needed around the world and if you have it, give it, empower, teach, learn and mentor,” she said. “Be a big brother or sister to anyone … because there are people out here that truly need it.”

The mission of Global Girls, Inc — which has seven chapters around the world, including in India, Grenada and Mombassa — is to “empower youth from the African diaspora … by training them in the performing arts to build strong communication, leadership and life skills,” said its founder and executive director Marvinetta Woodley-Penn.


If you’re interested in joining the organization or starting your own chapter, contact Woodley-Penn at [email protected] or 773-902-2359.

Tierra Carpenter can be reached at [email protected] or 618-536-3325.