To a World of Empowered Girls!
“A girl’s place is the kitchen.”
“Yours is to get married and serve your husband.”
“Your educational status will threaten men.”
… it goes on and on why a girl child should not consider formal education. Since time immemorial, women, especially African women, have been relegated and considered caretakers of homes. Women have primarily been responsible for bearing and caring for children, doing house chores, cooking, etc.
Girls who lack formal education tend to be very dependent and run the risk of child marriage and early pregnancy. Such women hardly know their rights and risk succumbing to any treatment. Then, in conservative African rural communities, men tend to assume superior positions in homes, where they are the providers and hold the power to make decisions. This patriarchal society widens the gender gap even further.
We celebrate and advocate for girls’ rights and equality on this Day of the Girl Child. Since its inception in 2006, bridging the gender gap has been at the core of Asante Africa Foundation’s mission. Our educational programs favor girl participation (typical breakdown: 60% female, 40% male) and are girl-led. We created the Wezesha Vijana Program (WVP) to help vulnerable adolescent girls at the greatest risk of school dropout. WVP educates young girls and their mothers on reproductive health, marriage, hygiene, girls’ rights, education, and livelihood choices.
The eureka moment when a young girl realizes she has choices, a voice, and the capability to help others who have not yet found their voice is the vehicle of gender equality. The social change potential in the rural, last-mile communities where we work is immense. The heartwarming and inspirational stories of Nasieku (Kenya), Irene & Sarah (Uganda), and Samira (Tanzania) are a testament to the power of girl education, compassion, and empowerment.
Nasieku knew her rights; thanks to the Wezesha Vijana Program
Nasieku, a WVP student, visited her parents one holiday, and her father planned to marry her to an elderly man. Nasieku refused, but her father was adamant. Unfortunately, her mother could do little to support her because of her husband’s community, which was deep-rooted in patriarchy. Because of her WVP training, Nasieku knew she had an alternative route and a way to save herself via education. She ran away from home to the open arms of her school. Today, Nasieku is doing very well. She is top of her class in school and makes money from menial jobs to support her mother and siblings. As well as forging her independent financial path, Nasieku’s dream is to become an advocate against child marriage.
On Monday morning, I walked back to school and I have never looked back since then. At the moment, I live with my mother in Maralal town. Aside from my school work, I also do menial work on weekends to help my mother support my siblings since I am the first born in our family.
Sarah Leads with Compassion
At Asante Africa, we believe that when you educate a girl child, you educate a whole nation, as over the years, we have witnessed the female beneficiaries of our programs making positive impacts in their communities.
Sarah and Irene’s story from Uganda embodies empowerment and compassion. Through Asante Africa’s Wezesha Vijana Program (WVP), Sarah (club treasurer), Irene (club leader), and their classmates gained valuable insights into budgeting, saving, and investing. Inspired by their newfound knowledge, they embarked on a project to sell baskets to generate income.
However, the burning question was, “What should they do with their income?” These young girls made a compassionate decision. Led by Sarah, the girls chose to extend a helping hand to those in need. Little did Irene know that her classmates had a special plan in mind – she would be the first recipient of their goodwill.
My fellow participants suggested first helping me because, at that time, I didn’t have any shoes or stockings. “Let us give you this money, and you go to the market and buy your shoes and stockings.” I bought my shoes and stockings, and now I look so smart. Irene
Irene and Sarah led their team to generate more income through other ventures like the making and selling of mats and mingling sticks, with the sole aim of generating more income to support more people in need.
Samira is Helping Girls Stay in School Through Menstrual Hygiene
Samira, from Tanzania, uses her WVP training to support other girls to stay in school by providing them with affordable and accessible sanitary pads. Samira and her friends used WVP training to create a hygiene support campaign. The girls are working with Asante Africa Foundation to supply girls in need with free menstrual hygiene kits to ensure they don’t miss out on school during their period.
These are just a few of the girls going out of their way to empower other females in their communities and beyond. Our WVP has touched over 335,00 young lives, and counting, across Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.
Today, we hold hands with all the individuals and societies across the globe, empowering the girl child! As we celebrate and advocate for girls’ rights, equality, and empowerment, join us to amplify our impact!
Written By: Halisatu Aziz