Our time is now—our rights, our future.
A Day Focused on the Girl Child
Empowering girls changes more than individuals – it changes families, generations, and societies to come. A girl’s potential and capability can catalyze positive change and have a global impact for centuries to come, causing a generation to instill skills that achieve gender equality and break the cycle of poverty.
International Day of the Girl Child was created by the UN as a day to remember that a girl’s education is a fundamental right and an investment, installing limitless benefits and opportunities in society. Once provided, education becomes a key to solving global challenges as girls become empowered with decision-making power.
With access to digital technology, leadership training, and a girls’ advancement curriculum, empowered girls create a snowball effect in East Africa that will transform girls, families, and communities forever.
We celebrate the 10th anniversary of International Day of the Girl (IDG) today. In these 10 years, significant attention was brought to women in parliament, governmental institutes, policymakers, the public, and other opportunities so that girls’ voices can be heard and receive the rights they deserve on a global scale. However, in many places, the investment in young girls is limited and they continue to face challenges when it comes to opportunities and their basic human rights like education.
Statistics from the United Nation Girls’ Education Initiative shows that in Uganda alone, more than 700,000 girls between the ages of 6 and 12 have never attended school. Half of the girls between the ages of 15 and 24 are illiterate and four in five girls don’t attend secondary school due to economic instability and patriarchy.
The widespread use of patriarchal customs in East Africa deprives girls of their basic human rights. Girls are sold in the name of marriage at an early age. The rate of harassment and domestic abuse against them is high, and girls have no rights over their bodies. This cycle can only be stopped if the landscape of global education is reshaped.
The Asante Africa Foundation believes in girls’ rights and considers education as an investment. We do all we can to keep girls on the learning path. We offer scholarships and digital literacy training. We expose girls to entrepreneurship programs and build their life skills to decrease the opportunity gap for girls. As we promote gender equality in society, build trust, and prioritize local needs concerning girls’ rights, we provide solutions to the most vulnerable population in rural East Africa.
Advocating for Girls’ Progress
In 2011, Asante Africa launched its Wezesha Vijana Program which educates adolescent girls, their mothers, and male peers on girls’ rights, reproductive health, financial literacy, and personal safety. Girls in this program have the knowledge and confidence to stand up for what they believe in. They are becoming advocates in their communities, and they are starting girl-led leadership clubs and small businesses.
Studies have shown that girls’ education is one of the most cost-effective strategies for promoting personal development and economic growth. Today, we take a look at how three girls are changing their communities as a result of their education.
EMPOWERED GIRLS EMPOWER OTHERS
Jennifer is a 12-year-old girl from Samburu County, currently in class 7 in Reteti Primary School. She is among the lucky girls from the Lowabene locality. She was rescued from forced early marriage in 2020 at the age of 10 through the help of Wezesha Vijana Program, and teacher-mentor, Mrs. Menelik Lenkaina.
In 2020, when Covid-19 hit, Jennifer’s father lost his job. Since there was no source of income for their livelihood, her parents forced her to marry a stranger in exchange for dowry in the form of cattle. Mrs. Menelik, empowered through Asante Africa Foundation’s Wezesha Vijana Program, did everything in her power to prevent this marriage by approaching Jennifer’s father and persuading him to let his daughter continue her education.
Jennifer received a scholarship from Asante Africa Foundation and currently is committed to her studies. Though she is struggling with anxiety caused by her past trauma, every day she decides not to give up and looks forward to becoming a doctor. Mrs. Malik is the chairperson of the Wezesha Vijana Program and works in the same school as her. She monitors Jennifer’s well-being and whereabouts every day and is committed to seeing her complete her education and chase her dreams.
Gift is 18 years old and is currently studying in Senior Three. Gift was part of the Wezesha Vijana Program Community Learning Groups of Asante Africa Foundation during COVID-19 and is now a scholarship recipient.
Growing up, Gift lived with her mother and stepfather. Her stepfather stopped providing scholastic materials and fees for her education when COVID-19 hid due to the economic recession. Her dream of becoming an independent strong woman and gaining leadership qualities were crushed. She lost all hope. Her stepfather tried to force her into marriage, so she ran from home.
When schools reopened, Gift had no financial assets to continue her education. Then, she learned about Asante Africa Foundation. As a scholarship recipient, Gift goes to school every day, has books to help her learn, and receives help from committed teachers who want to support her dreams. Her school fees are paid on time and she doesn’t have to stress about financial issues. She can concentrate on her studies.
Gift’s story of resilience is such an inspiration that students trusted and voted for her this term as the Information Prefect (class leader). Gift’s stepfather has also changed his mindset regarding girls’ education and he is happy to see her thriving in her studies. Gift works with the school administration and participates in the Pay-it-Forward Program because she believes we should invest in others. She wants to express her thanks to Asante Africa Foundation for her support.
Judith is a proud businesswoman, a spouse, and a mother to two beautiful and amazing boys – Brighton and Benson. Judith recently registered the “Masaylady shoe store” business with a TIN and a license. Soon she will increase business capital for her shoe factory.
This was not an easy journey. Judith’s family was not financially stable and could not afford her education. This all changed when she received a scholarship from Asante Africa in 2010. But this scholarship was not the only thing Asante Africa gave her – she was exposed to various programs, workshops, and skills. Thanks to these programs, she began to see the creative side of entrepreneurship and started to sew shoes for her friends.
As she continued her education at University with good grades, she managed to start a leather shoe business with various Maasai cultures by importing raw materials from neighboring areas. For the first time, she realized that she was strong enough to make decisions on her own and operate independently. Thanks to her education, she recognized the potential in herself and her business and is now thriving.
Written by Ayesha Hameed Khattak
GIRLS IN OUR PROGRAM ARE CHANGING THE STATUS QUO
Jennifer, Gift, and Judith represent more than a hundred thousand girls who now have the confidence to stand up for what they believe in, become advocates in their communities, and start girl-led leadership clubs and small businesses. This is how we know our program works.
WAYS TO HONOR DAY OF THE GIRL CHILD
Empower the girls in your life and community
Ask what challenges they face and how you can better support them.
Spread awareness for the girls who still do not have equal opportunities
Forward this blog to a friend, share our page on social media, and pass on stories of girls who are resilient, breaking the cycle of poverty in their families.