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STEM and health in rural Kenya (WISER) – 2023

Kenya - WISER
Dates May 18 - July 13, 2023
Program Focus

Empowering underprivileged girls and their community in rural Kenya through improvements in education and health; supporting skill development in engineering, ICT and coding; assessing the impact of a clean water system serving 15,000 people; supporting adolescent boys and girls in sexual and reproductive health educational programs; teaching in primary schools to provide practice in English for national exams.

Program Leaders
Program Themes
  • Children & Youth
  • Education
  • Female Empowerment
  • Public Health
  • Science
  • Technology



Information Session:

  • Thursday, November 17, 6:15 PM – Friedl 204


Muhuru Bay, Kenya, is a rural village of about 30,000 spread out over a peninsula in Lake Victoria. The community relies predominantly on fishing and subsistence farming.  Much of the community lacks electricity, clean water, or access to sanitation and has the highest HIV, malaria, and infant mortality rates in Kenya.

Dr. Broverman has worked in Kenya for 20 years, researching the role gender played in creating the elevated HIV infection rate in girls in East Africa and how educational systems could be used as powerful intervention points to reduce risk. To develop and assess interventions, Dr. Broverman founded the NGO WISER in Kenya and WISER International in the US. Together these organizations have created a highly successful model for reducing HIV risk in girls and producing high achieving leaders from a poor, traditionally low-performing community.

Duke students will assist WISER to empower girls and communities through transformative education and holistic health. WISER accomplishes this by a range of interventions that include health, education, STEM entrepreneurship, and leadership development. Partners will include high school girls enrolled in the WISER secondary school in Kenya and their teachers; primary school boys and girls s and teachers; local health programs; a local clinic; and community groups.


Community Partnerships

  • Collecting and analyzing data on a clean water system
  • Working with an engineering club to prepare for national science fairs
  • Expanding and assessing a community sexual reproductive health and rights program
  • Teaching girls in a computer science/robotics club how to program, develop websites, or work with drones.
  • Working at the local ministry of health center to help them with data and records analysis
  • Running a debate/poetry/public speaking/writing club
  • Expanding and assessing sexual and reproductive health curricula for boys and girls
  • Documentary work on the lives of girls in the community


Program Requirements

Coursework: Specific courses are not required; however, students taking courses relevant to global health, women’s issues, engineering, computer science, entrepreneurship, English, education, or international development might be given priority.

Skills: Documentary/writing skills and programming skills welcomed.

Personal qualities:

  • Ability to manage stress in novel environments and with little personal space. Students will be living communally in a bunkhouse and have limited opportunities to be alone.
  • Ability to deal with uncertainty.
  • Ability to understand situations from different perspectives, even ones you disagree with. To be curious and open without judgement, whether with Kenyans or your fellow Duke students.
  • Ability to work in a community in which the male-female dynamic can be very different from in the U.S.



Housing, meals, and transportation: All students will live together on the eight-acre gated WISER campus overlooking Lake Victoria. Electricity can be unreliable, but there should be several hours a day with access. If there are long-term power outages, students may not have access to hot showers and may have to use heated buckets of water as most traditional Kenyans do. Housing on campus will be bunk beds in a common mixed-gender dormitory.

Meals will be provided by the WISER cafeteria, where students will eat five nights a week. Protein is rare in the local diet and most food is based on corn-meal, rice, and beans. Students can enrich their diet by buying protein, fruits, and vegetables in town and cooking for themselves in their kitchen using a propane burner. It becomes fun to see what foods  we can create! If you are uncomfortable not having complete control over your food this may be a challenging placement site.

Health Note: Peanuts are a common ingredient in the local cuisine. Easily accessed to treatment for travelers experiencing a severe allergic reaction to this and other food(s) is limited at this program site. Students who are considering application to DukeEngage-Kenya-WISER should review these facts with their families and medical providers before applying.

Most transportation within Muhuru Bay will be by motorcycle taxi with vetted drivers. Transportation outside of Muhuru will be provided by a trusted company that has worked with WISER for fourteen years or by another chartered service approved by our community partner.

Local safety, security, and cultural norms: We encourage students who have questions or concerns about health or safety in international programs to check Duke’s International SOS (ISOS) portal for relevant information. If you have special needs related to health, culture, disability, or religious practices, please contact the program director(s) or the DukeEngage office to discuss whether your needs can be accommodated in this program.

For guidance on how race, religion, sexual/gender identity, ability, or other aspects of identity might impact your travels, we suggest exploring the Diversity, Identity and Global Travel section of the DukeEngage website.


Academic Connections

This program is open to all, and might especially appeal to students taking courses in global health, education, biology, English, women/gender studies, public policy, cultural anthropology, engineering, computer programming, and ICS.

Potential program cancellations

DukeEngage cannot guarantee that any program will occur. Programs may be cancelled for various reasons, including COVID considerations.

Reflections from 2022

DukeEngage Alumni on Staff at WISER

Zack Fowler (’16) and Leah Catotti (’15) worked at WISER International.

Read Their Story