Women and girls in prison

There are currently around 20,000 women and girls in the Kenyan Prison System. Many have little or no education and come from difficult backgrounds, having lived in slums and struggling with all the issues that poverty brings. Many are single mothers who are also the bread winners in their homes. Survival crime is sometimes the only way to make ends meet. Others may have histories of domestic violence, trapped in abusive relationships, while others are HIV positive.

Whether these women serve short or long-term sentences, their experience behind bars is often a dehumanizing process, where any self-confidence and self-esteem they might have had on admission to prison, is gradually eroded away.

Overcomers who have served prison sentences

Each month, hundreds of girls and women are released from prisons in Kenya, with many having nowhere to go and no immediate means of supporting themselves. Not only this, but they also lack the skills and confidence to tackle the huge challenges they face post release, such as finding daily food and shelter, tracing their children and accessing a sustainable livelihood.

Many women inmates dread their release day as they fear how they will cope with daily life and overcome multiple barriers and stigma post-release. Since there is no social service provision in Kenya, unless they have family or friends to receive them, these women are on their own. Isolation, depression and fear take hold and they become vulnerable to exploitation. The only options open to them, for example, petty crime, survival sex and attempted suicide, are often the very things that take them through the revolving door and back into prison. The recidivism rate for women and girls in Kenya is 52%.

Children accompanying their mothers in prison

In lieu of formal education, many girls work from an early age to support their families and younger siblings and/or are married young, becoming teenage mothers. Mothers who are sentenced to prison with children under 5 years old take them to prison with them if there is no one else to care for them in the community. There are over 300 children under 5 in Kenya’s prisons with no state budget whatsoever for food, health or education for these children.

Women and girls in prison


Clean Start has licensed and adapted the award-winning Spear Course from the UK with the aim of rolling it out across the Kenyan Prison System.

Spear introduces, embeds and sustains behavioral and attitudinal change benefiting women and girls at all life stages, helping them to be better equipped for life after prison.

Women also acquire work-ready skills increasing their chances of securing work post release. In addition to our training programs, we conduct regular prison visits delivering dignity packs and bringing motivational speakers to women in prisons all over Kenya.

Overcomers who have served prison sentences


Clean Start supports women and girls after they leave prison providing accessible and safe meeting places where “Overcomers” can gather, share ideas and support one another.

Each meeting includes: training on a specific tool, taken from the Spear Course, which may be used to overcome a specific challenge faced by the women.

Training includes: communication tools for conflict resolution: the victim and power mentality; building resilience; maintaining motivation; how to deal with failure; the fixed and growth mindset; anger management tools and handling disclosure of a criminal record.

Children accompanying their mothers in prison


Clean Start is partnering with a variety of stakeholders to bring essential everyday items for the children accompanying their mothers in prison. These include:

  • clothes
  • toys
  • diapers
  • milk and fresh fruit

We are also exploring ways to provide Early Years Education through partnerships with educational establishments.