Meet Habiba – Girl on a mission


Save the Elephants

Date Published

This once-shy twenty-year-old elephant scholar has just accomplished a series of remarkable firsts – the first in her family to complete high school, the first to go to university and the first girl from her community to study the fast-evolving field of geo-information technology.

AND SHE’ S ACHIEVED ALL THIS against a backdrop of poverty, hardship and ill health – all thanks to kind hearted people such as you.

Habiba grew up in a traditional, male-dominated society in northern Kenya where the role of the woman is to have children and stay at home. Most of Habiba’s peers are now mothers, some married as young as 11 years old – their prospects of life greatly diminished.

Raised by her single mother, the sole bread-winner of the family, Habiba was forced to look after her younger siblings. But her mother, in the face of fierce criticism, encouraged her to go to elementary school and protected her from female genital mutilation and child marriage.

In 2015, thanks to her head teacher, Habiba’s life took an exciting turn.

“My head teacher had informed Save the Elephants that I was worthy of an elephant scholarship”, says Habiba. “The Save the Elephants team came to my school, did the interview and I left the rest up to God – if I was supposed to get that scholarship, I would. The day Save the Elephants called to say I’d been accepted was one of the most beautiful days of my life!”

Since then, Habiba has become a beacon of hope for other elephant scholars, a student leader, a lobbyist against the traditional practice of FGM, and a gender barrier-breaking force.

Despite suffering ill health and sitting her high school exams in hospital, she passed her subjects with flying colours – including top marks in Information Technology.

Last year, your kindness meant the elephant scholars received extra tuition during the COVID crisis, along with solar lighting kits so they could study at home, and reusable face- masks. Habiba was hired as one of the tutors for the younger scholars.

Habiba (standing) assisting high school students during additional tutoring lessons ©George Mugera

This year Habiba enrolled at the Technical University of Kenya, thanks to her sponsor, where she is now one of only three girls pursuing a BSc in Geo-Information Technology. Habiba’s dream is a career in conservation.

“I can’t imagine where my life would be today had it not been for the elephant scholarship”, she says. “Four years ago, I couldn’t talk, I was so shy. Now look at me! I have so much confidence. Even the community now respects my mum—they judged her at first for sending me to school as it meant I didn’t get married or get preg- nant. But I knew that I would prove them wrong and now they have huge respect for her.”

Habiba hopes her journey inspires other young girls to follow their dreams and is beyond grateful to her donors, for giving her a chance.

“There is nothing I can do that will ever be enough to thank my donors. I would like to hug them all. I am so privileged and so grateful for their support. The scholarship changed my life.” – HABIBA, STUDENT TUTOR, ELEPHANT SCHOLAR

Thank you for making stories like Habiba’s possible.

Want to hear more heartwarming stories like this? Check out the full 2020 Donor Impact Report here.