International Day of the Girl Child: With Sanayian

October 11th marks the United Nation’s seventh annual International Day of the Girl Child that promotes girls’ empowerment and the fulfilment of their rights while recognizing the distinct challenges girls face. Girls are often deprived of the advocacy and encouragement needed to help them excel in all areas of their life, such as education and employment. Many do not get the emotional or practical support when they are young and as they age into adolescence. Among the many issues that are heightened for girls, such as child marriage, gender-based violence, and accessing information and services on sexual and reproductive health, girls also encounter more obstacles in attaining skills for employability. This year’s theme With Her: A Skilled GirlForce seeks to unite partners and stakeholders in their efforts to address the most pressing needs and opportunities for girls to gain the skills and support needed for the formal workforce.

Sanayian was not expected to continue her education

One of the most successful pathways for girls to continue their skill development is through secondary education. However, cultural factors and social pressure often demand that girls drop out of school during their adolescent age. Sanayian R. had a similar experience when she became pregnant at age 14 and was forced to drop out of school. Due to the lack of information on how to deal with her changing body and stress from the constant pressure and scrutiny from her community, she eventually miscarried. As a young orphan girl raised in the patriarchal structure of the Maasai tribe in Kenya, Sanayian was not expected to continue her education. She was not expected to take on a leadership role. She was not encouraged to pursue her dreams, or even to have dreams at all. Given the situation, it would have been easy for her to feel discouraged and lose hope.

Sanayian demonstrates success of dialogue and mentorship

Fortunately, Sanaiyan found her way out of the difficult situation when she was selected to join Asante Africa Foundation’s Girl’s Advancement Program, also known as the Wezesha Vijana. She received peer and teacher mentoring and became educated on her personal rights. Sanaiyan also learned several essential life skills such as how to manage her money, how to seek help when she needed it, how to use her voice, and how to take care of her body. She also attended the Always Keeping Girls in School Program and with the additional support, became #1 in her 8th grade class.

Aside from being a perfect example of a young girl exercising her rights and developing her skills, Sanaiyan also helps other girls achieve the same success. She is now a Wezesha Vijana mentor and advises the younger girls in the program. She teaches them how to build up their confidence to speak up, how to handle their body when it changes, and shares her knowledge with girls struggling with similar issues that she went through when she was their age. One of her recent accomplishments involves rescuing a 13 year old girl who was to undergo FGM before being married off.

Sanaiyan is now currently in Form 1, and pursuing her dream of becoming a bank manager when she finishes school, so that she can help her community members learn how to manage their money. With girls like Sanaiyan as a role model and through partnerships with organizations such as Asante Africa Foundation, we can bring ourselves one step closer for all girls worldwide to gain the knowledge and skills needed to create a gainful, safe, and healthy lifestyle.

– Written by Genevieve Chan