“Young people are the foundation for effective development, and if engaged they will improve many of the structural development challenges that we face today, including enhancing the cohesiveness of families and communities, reducing health risks, and advancing livelihood opportunities. They are the bridge between effective development policy and valuable practical action on the ground.” (DFID 2010: 89)
In continuation of 2017’s theme: Sustainable Development for Children in Africa – accelerating protection and equal opportunity empowerment, this year’s theme, “Leave no Child Behind”, ensures that all children are identified as agents of change in realization of the SDGs. The marginalized children, often the disabled, those without parental care, girls and those in the rural areas are put at the forefront in making decisions concerning the society. A child’s participation in Africa’s development is meaningful. No other person can understand issues affecting them better than they do.
Meet two women, Rose and Marion from East Africa who have taken it into their hearts and lives to make sure that no child is left behind. They understand that there is a serious gender disparity in enrolment and transition from one level to the next, especially in rural Africa.(Gender and Education, Jan 2009), and education of girls is essential in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
Marion Naipanoi, Girls’ Advancement Program, Asante Africa Foundation.
Children, especially girls in most parts of the world, face enormous struggles especially with worsening opportunities in education.
According to Unesco and unicef, Girls’ primary school completion rates are below 50%. Every year in most poor countries, 15 million girls are coerced into early marriage, and one in every three girls in the developing world is married by the age of 18.
Marion Naipanoi, came from tough beginnings, yet she is now growing into a powerful, educated, determined woman who is bringing a change to the lives of girls in her community.
“I realize that education is the only thing that I can depend on, otherwise I would have be married long ago”
At age 11, Marion ran away from home to Tasaru Eselenkei Centre, a girls’ rescue centre, to avoid FGM (Female Genital Mutilation). What followed is a sight too common within the Maasai community. Her mother was chased away from home. However, this did not deter Marion’s spirit. The rescue centre provided her a safe space, to continue with her studies. After being a part of Asante Africa’s Girls’ Advancement Program, she took it upon herself to lead other girls in the right path. She leads the Wezesha Savings Club, and also trains other girls in developing leadership and business skills.
She has recently graduated from Standard 8, and is looking forward to joining Secondary School. Seeing the impact she has been able to create at a young age, her father has realized that education is as important for girls, as it is for boys.
‘Don’t stop until you are proud’
Rose Napoya, Girls’ Advancement Program, Asante Africa Foundation.
Rose, a mother of 4 and a teacher, is a patron of a girls’ led Wezesha Vijana club. She interacts with the girls in the school house and acts as a trusted counselor from whom the girls can seek help and advice. Her interaction with the communities in attempt to truly understand their plight, speaks volume about the persistence and empathy she brings to her work. She is working to overturn the cultural norms that deprive women and girls of their status and basic rights. She has been threatened for betraying community norms but has chosen to devote herself to helping others, by building relations with local law enforcement and involving men and boys in the conversation around girls’ rights.
There is a lot of innovation going on in engaging children and youth in poverty reduction initiatives. And in the same breath, we need to give our children and youth a voice in Africa’s development. Education and child security is a core element in creating a system that protects and involves the young generation. They need to be involved in all stages of effective development.
At Asante Africa Foundation, we believe that brilliance and talent may exist everywhere, but opportunities do not. We are focused on helping communities overcome major challenges by providing equipment and training to teachers, bringing harmony and
understanding to families, stopping early pregnancies and early marriages, and convincing parents to see the benefit of sending their children to school. Therefore, we implore you to join us as we address the root cause of why African youth are not successful and create an ecosystem of opportunities for them to excel.