"You'll be delighted to meet the Survival Girls, turning their stories of abuse into empowerment in a Nairobi slum."
--U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, USAID Frontiers in Development
In the summer of 2011, writer, artist, and development worker Ming Holden journeyed to Kenya with the goal of creating a performance with refugee girls for World Refugee Day. At the end of her seven weeks there, she had founded the Survival Girls, a theater group comprised of six Congolese refugee women ages 18-23 living in a Nairobi slum. The Survival Girls have stayed together since then, an independent and self-sustaining women's empowerment and artistic expression group that has doubled in membership, competed in local competitions, and been contracted by the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees to perform all over Nairobi about female genital mutilation and other social issues.
The Survival Girls is a literary nonfiction book fully illustrated by Seattle artist Jody Joldersma. Proceeds benefit university education for the Survival Girls in Nairobi. Written in the first person by Ming, this is just one story of the group's genesis, a story of how the concept and enactment of 'safe space' to assist with trauma recovery impacted women's empowerment in the refugee community in Nairobi's slums.
Ming Holden and Jody Joldersma first worked together as contributors to The Better Bombshell , an anthology that asked writers and visual artists to collaborate to redefine the female role model. Holden and Joldersma collaborated on a chapter about the Survival Girls, which was published alongside writing and art by Dave Barry, Rick Bass, Craig Childs, Roxane Gay, Chris Sheridan, Chris Crites, Andrea Wicklund, and Siolo Thompson.