Empowering the Girl Child

Adolescent girls in developing countries such as Kenya face challenges to their education, including illiteracy, exposure to violence; social stigmas; and limited opportunities for good work to support themselves and a family. One key challenge which can limit educational attainment and access for girls to all levels of education involves traditional gender roles. For cultures that favor the boy child, boys’ education is usually a priority since families in these cultures believe that girls do not need as much education since they will just become wives and mothers. In addition, when financial resources are limited, parents from poverty in gender traditional cultures will fund a boy’s education ahead of a girl’s education. 

In a recent survey done with girls from the Musembe school region, the girls reported the critical barriers to their educational progress. These included: insufficient lighting in the home, lack of paraffin to light the lanterns, lack of sanitary supplies, and insufficient food to eat. 

Every girl reported she was required to do work once she returned home from school.  The most common examples included: gathering firewood, hauling water; watching younger siblings, preparing a meal; cleaning the house; and doing laundry. None of the girls reported they were released early from the responsibility of their household chores to complete their homework. Instead, homework was attempted if there was time left before going to bed. 

One unexpected type of work was revealed from the survey data. One girl reported: “I have to brew chang’aa (local brew) the whole night…no time for reading.” The school principal confirmed that this type of child labor was a frequent issue with children in the community. He further explained: “Parents have abandoned their whole parenthood even with the children, they want their children to work for them… Lack of education, poverty, the children can work for them, go and work for other people.”

To address the girls’ basic needs in the Musembe school region to increase their self-esteem, Marafiki started a project to provide sanitary supplies for girls at Musembe school to keep them in school during their time of the month. Further, the girls are provided mentoring from their female teachers and respected women in the community. Since this program started in 2014, the girls at Musembe school have continued to turn around their academic performance and are now on par with the boys academically. Providing even the basic needs for these girls has motivated them and raised their self-confidence as young women with worth and potential for success in life. 

Ongoing needs:

  • Funds for sanitary supplies for girls in grades 6-8 in the local villages.
  • Funds to provide mentoring and skill building programs for girls in this region.

Total amount needed per year: $2,500.