Yes she can: Each and every girl can be a future leader
Even though she is just 12 years old, Mila gives the same answer each time. “I want to be a police officer when I am older”. Her best friend Nadia also gives an equally assured answer when she is asked what she wants to do...“I will be a doctor after school”. In just a few short years both of them will have the opportunity to study in university. But this is not the same for every young girl in Kenya. An increasing number of girls from the most marginalised communities won’t get the opportunity to fulfil their potential.
Before Coronavirus the increase in public school places led to a greater number of girls in the 6-13 age group going to class. This meant that more girls from the most disadvantaged backgrounds were getting an education. Finally, there was a chance that the decades old cycle of poverty and invisible glass ceiling would both be shattered. But when it came to girls in the 14-17 age group, the numbers going to school decreased to just over a quarter. Fast forward to January this year and the reopening of Kenyan schools after a 9 month lockdown. Up and down the country principals reported that thousands of young girls had not reported back to school. While economic hardships accounted for a portion of the total, the real reason was that countless girls had become pregnant through no fault of their own. The reality was that during the closure levels of unwanted advances from sex pests and sexual abuse of young girls had skyrocketed. In one county alone over 6,000 girls were affected. Of these 289 were between the ages of 10-14 while the rest were 15-19 years old. With the vast majority hailing from the poorest communities, it would mean even fewer girls going to school and a continuation of the cycle of poverty. Our team was not prepared to let this happen. We were not prepared to see so many potential future female leaders lose out!
In spite of the continuing challenges posed by the pandemic our team has started providing the necessary emotional and educational support to the most vulnerable. By ensuring that each girl can continue with their studies in a supportive environment throughout their pregnancy, they do not need to give up on their ambitions. As Kamala Harris once said “What I want young women and girls to know is: You are powerful and your voice matters”. And even though they are pregnant these girls know that they have the same rights as every other child. Like every other child they can finish school, go to third-level and become leaders in their field of choice...whatever that might be. And not only does each girl benefit from this approach but so does their community. During her successful run for Governor of Bomet County in 2017, the late Joyce Laboso said it best “if you empower women, then everyone in the community benefits”.
Even though there is still a huge amount of work to be done and a lot of vulnerable girls out there, our team is determined that each and every one will have the same choice as Mila and her best friend Nadia have today. Because it’s not a case of “if she can” but “yes she can”.
Find out how you can help here.