Elimu’s first documentary tells the story of rural girls in Kenya overcoming their challenges with sewing skills and digital proficiency. The documentary earned second place at Grand International Film & Theatre Festival (Nairobi) – May 2, 2021.

At Elimu our pillars are Education, Entrepreneurship and Empowerment! We use technology to improve access to education and to empower youth with more successful futures especially with skills relevant for the digital age. Our sewing project saves rural girls in Coastal Kenya from early marriage and other risks after Grade 8.

When COVID-19 hit Kenya, we embarked on a new entrepreneurship project to confront the isolation! The result was the Pendo Artisan Ragdoll designed and produced by Elimu sewing students and their teachers. The dolls come in three designs each named after a real Elimu sewing graduate.

In 2021, we took another new step. We registered for the Grand International Film and Theatre Festival in Nairobi or GIFT Fest and set about creating the first ever Elimu documentary video. “Pendo!” depicts how Elimu used entrepreneurship to keep our sewing students busy with positive work during COVID-19 – saving them from returning to the risks of life alone in their villages.

Our Elimu Girls persevered through trial and error; researched new ideas and practical solutions on the internet, and ultimately came up with a loveable truly Kenyan ragdoll. In the same way, the Elimu team pursued their goal of creating the video story of how the Pendo ragdoll broke through the isolation of COVID-19 connecting these rural Kenya girls with girls, boys and adults miles away in America. The team was headed by Canadian-based Nigerian, Dagang Gang, on his inaugural video story-telling initiative. The Elimu lead in Kenya was Cynthia Omondi, Elimu’s communications liaison.

“A girl should be two things: who and what she wants.” Coco Chanel

Each ragdoll carries with it the story of these girls and how their sewing training and digital skills save them from the many risks associated with voicelessness in their rural villages. Without their sewing sponsorships, they would have ended their learning at Grade 8 and been married off by their parents. They generally have no say in the matter and no options for their futures. Elimu steps in with the option of entrepreneurship, sponsors them for two years, gives them digital skills and helps them start their own tailoring businesses. Many Elimu alumni own livestock, build their own traditional mud and tin rooved houses, help siblings with school fees, and support their parents with household needs. Some even end up owning land.

At the outset of COVID-19 with the sewing college closed for teaching, we came up with the idea to bring the girls back to their workshop for business activities. It started with sewing face masks and evolved into an exciting new artisan ragdoll innovation. Pendo is truly Kenyan but with lots of collaboration from around the world. A story of connections that thrived despite the isolation of the pandemic. Enjoy the short trailer below that we prepared for GIFT Fest. We are planning a global watch party via Zoom in July. Hope you will join us. Stay tuned to our social media for details.


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Elimu empowers learners to increase academic and digital literacy, improve school retention and encourage self-sustainability through employment planning and entrepreneurship. 

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Elimu is the official trade name of Elimu Development Projects, a registered Canadian charity. BN 828374314.

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