Our Story


It all started...

In 2006 No Means No Worldwide (NMNW), Founder Lee Paiva was walking through Korogocho slum in Nairobi, Kenya to check on a microloan businesses.  Her translator began whispering about the people and shacks they passed. “This girl was raped at knife point, this child is a rape baby, this girl is HIV-positive from rape by her father, this is where a grandmother died after being gang-raped, this woman’s baby was raped...” Lee felt she had entered a nightmare world. A baby raped? A grandmother?

It sounded as if every female there had been sexually assaulted. The translator shrugged as if to say, “It is what it is.”

This experience struck a personal chord for Lee, and she immediately set to prove that “it” was a rights atrocity and result of egregious gender-related power imbalances. She further set out to show that  that an education curriculum rooted in individual rights and  empowerment self-defense skills, like the one she had which experienced in the United States, could be transferred to slum environments.

In October 2009, Lee started building NMNW, by designing and piloting a violence prevention and intervention system called IMpower. She worked closely with educational and academic experts across the globe to design curricula and training materials. The aim was to stop the cycle of violence by educating girls and boys to create gender equity for community-wide, generational change.

In 2011, Lee began training instructors to deliver IMpower programming. In 2012 she teamed up with the Kenyan nonprofit Ujamaa to  launch classes and gather data for impact evaluation. This effort led to the formation of the Gender Based Violence Prevention Collaborative in partnership with Stanford University. The Collective produced five scientific articles published in major international journals about the impact of NMNW’s work.

IMpower is now a leading dual gender violence prevention curriculum for youth. The male and female IMpower Instructors trained since launching NMNW have taught over 180,000 girls and boys in Kenya and Malawi. In addition to pioneering cutting-edge prevention interventions, NMNW created a 12 Step recovery program for survivors called Sexual Assault Survivors Anonymous (SASA). These meetings are held across Nairobi and provide long-term steps to recovery free of charge.

In 2015, after 3 years of testing its program in Kenya, NMNW was ready to achieve transformative scale in preventing gender-based violence by becoming a best practice global training academy and technical assistance provider. NMNW’s technical assistance approach is to provide comprehensive support to existing local implementing partner organizations like Ujamaa, so the partners can deliver and evaluate high quality rape prevention programming across the globe.

To bring an end to the global rape epidemic, NMNW believes that education and training is central to prevention and that the decades-long focus on costly, reactive aftercare must end. NMNW has a measurable and proven model that has been verified as primary prevention to stop sexual harassment, assault and rape. Now, NMNW’s job is to spread that model as widely and as quickly as possible.


“What No Means No Worldwide is proving through its sexual assault intervention is that you don’t need to build 142 police stations, like they did in Tanzania, for millions of dollars. What you need to do is build training capacity in human beings and then train kids to use what’s already within themselves.”

—Catherine Maternowska,
Child protection specialist, Unicef Office of Research-Innocenti