As we commemorate the 10th anniversary of the International Day of the Girl Child, we asked girls in our community about this special day. Most of the girls we talked to had no idea about the International Day of the Girl Child. They were amazed to learn that it is a day to celebrate girls worldwide. “I wonder what happens on this day. Is it the same as celebrating birthdays or Christmas?” Fidel a grade 5 student, Lema Primary School asked.
This year’s theme for celebrating the international day of the girl child is “Our time is now, our rights, our future.”
Imagine a free world where adolescent girls can express their feelings, understand their safety networks, and have an understanding that other people have to respect their body boundaries and space. If girls worldwide were fully empowered in these areas, there would be no violation of rights, and girls could have the power to advocate for their rights.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, many adolescent girls between ages 12 and 19 became pregnant in our community. Kenya Connect started a program to empower girls after conducting in-depth interviews to establish the key drivers to teen pregnancy. We learned from the data we collected that peer pressure, gender-based violence, and a lack of accurate sexual health and reproductive education were the key drivers.
Through our Girl/Boy Empowerment Program, we equip girls and boys with accurate information on sexual health and education to make informed decisions. In addition, we teach them about body boundaries, their safe space, safety networks, the right to say no, and instill in them values that will improve their self-worth and help them have a healthy attitude and self-acceptance.
Fidel, a program beneficiary, commented, “I’ve learned about body boundaries, consent, and that I have a right to say no to unwanted touch.” Mbete shared, “Knowing my body belongs to me makes me feel empowered. Also, I have learned the importance of making good decisions with my future in mind.” Mutindi reflected, “Through the Girl/Boy Empowerment Program I have learned about peer pressure and that I don’t need to follow what others are doing to fit in. All I need is to love and accept myself more and do what makes me happy”.
Since rolling out the program in January of 2022, we have provided the program to 85 girls and 82 boys at the four Kenya Connect schools that had the highest incidence of teen pregnancy. Since we have been providing the program, there have not been any reported teen pregnancy cases in these four schools. We aim to scale the program to all 63 partner schools with more funding.
Ending all forms of girls’ discrimination is not only a human right but an added advantage to other development areas, which might have a substantial positive impact on rural communities. Therefore, we invite you to help us stamp out teen pregnancy by supporting our program.
“Our girls now know how to express themselves; they are confident and less shy; they ask and answer questions in English. They respect teachers and the way they interact with others has improved.” Mr. Nyenyeka Ndunda, Deputy Head Teacher, Lema primary School
“Knowing that I have personal values has boosted my self-esteem and now I have the power to focus on my future because I believe I am powerful, empowered, and strong.” –-Christine
Jackie Ndele is the author of the blog and one of the Mentors and creators of the Girl/Boy Empowerment Program