Expanding our Reach for Vulnerable Girls in Kenya, in 2019
Dec 28 2019
The Girls’ Advancement Program is one of the hallmark programs by Asante Africa Foundation. The program focuses on keeping girls in school longer by educating them in maintaining health, traversing social situations, and securing their economic future. Community empowerment, parental engagement, and after-school clubs that engage in peer mentoring are all unique identifiers that make this program successful. Another attribute of the program is to include boys in the education process, thus making young boys active participants in female empowerment.
In 2019, with the support from a sponsor, Asante Africa piloted a project that spans 20 schools in and around Samburu Central sub-county in Kenya. Phase I consisted of 550 girls across 11 partnered schools. Phase II expanded to 9 more schools and 450 more girls. The program targets the most vulnerable school girls from these communities. Beneficiaries of this program are girls between the ages 10 to 19, those who are young mothers, or unmarried girls who fled their homes to escape early child marriage or genital cutting. Many of them have no knowledge of sexual or reproductive health and are not financially literate. Upon reaching puberty, these girls are often married off, hence schools have become a safe haven, where mothers send their girls to reduce their vulnerability and protect them from early marriages.
A cornerstone of the program is to engage and educate parents and the larger community on the many challenges that young girls face daily. To that end, community meetings were scheduled in various locations where parents could express various challenges of raising girls and learn to support them, especially in matters of sexual maturation. The primary goal of these meetings were to sensitized the mothers on the need to support their daughters in terms of reproductive needs and academic performance. Secondly, the meetings served as a platform to help the community understand how the program is addressing the challenges faced by girls. Total of 144 parents attended these community meetings across four locations and became active partners of youth empowerment.
Another pillar of the Girls’ Advancement Program is to engage one teacher per school to serve as trainers and mentors to the girls. In May 2019, Asante Africa conducted a three day Training-of-Trainers workshop that included 46 participants. The workshop’s objectives were to understand the various problems affecting girls’ education, explore alternatives to empower girls, review training curriculum, and learn innovative ways to work with adolescents.
During the workshop the findings of Phase I were also studied. One of the major factors in girls’ missing school was menstrual management, nomadic way of life, and family obligations. The findings also indicated a need in the increase in infrastructure, such as toilet facilities at school. However, the results showed that girls were able to better manage their menstruation. The Asante Africa Foundation has also set in place a mechanism that provides nearly 1000 girls with sanitary towels and underpants for three school terms. The combined influence of better facilities and period management has increased girls’ school attendance.
So far, the project has benefited nearly 1000 girls across 20 partnered schools. The Girls’ Advancement Program, with the aim of increasing girls’ quality of life, carefully select schools to partner with, train mentors to support the girls, mobilize and educate the community to support and understand the needs of the girls, economically strengthen the girls and their family to make them less vulnerable to social influences, and constantly monitor the program and keep altering and strengthening the curriculum and address the needs of the community. This multi-design project was able to break through African cultural norms and encourage culturally sensitive discussions on girls’ rights. Overall, Asante Africa Foundation’s programs for youth empowerment has increased attendance at school and encouraged young girls to become economically savvy, consequently improving their economic condition and that of their families.
Written By ~ Sumathi Ramantha