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Girls Need to Learn

I come from rural part of Kenya. What really inspires me is girls well-being and gender reforms especially through girls’ education. I was born and raised up in a humble nomadic family of eight with a disabled dad who struggled every moment of his life for my siblings and I, and a mum who gave birth to me at a mere age of 16. Just like so many other pastoralist women my mum was married as a child and you can imagine all her struggles as she raised as up. Growing up, I was not guaranteed of finishing school but because primary school education was free my dad gave me the opportunity to learn up to grade 8 because his main challenge was funds. His plan was to see me through basic primary school education and train me as a tailor mending torn clothes.  But I worked so hard and became the top girl during our primary school national examination earning myself scholarship for high school and years later I went to university. That opportunity made me learn and excel.

Studying was not easy, I struggled in school due to lack of books, mentor-ship and support. I walked miles to school, sometimes on empty stomach and barefoot with totally worn out shoes. So many times, I felt like just dropping out. Despite everything my dad never gave up on us, especially me as his first born daughter. Despite lack of resources he was always there for me. He was a great feminist and his love for girls well-being motivated me. Watching him wake up every morning, struggle to put on his artificial leg, walk in a cold morning, carry his heavy sewing machine and sit in front of people’s veranda in a scotching sun gave me so much determination/hope to just press on. Even when I was going to school with a uniform full of patches due to mending, because my parents couldn’t afford a new one I was not giving up.   On school holidays my friends and I involved ourselves in manual work just to get money to support ourselves. I remember this day when we were on high school holiday, I got myself so much blisters on my hands due to cutting grass, actually we were three and all of us got the blisters because it was our first time cutting grass. We felt so much pity for ourselves!

Sanitary resource is a basic need for every girl, at least to keep them in school. My friends and I had our own fair share of stories. I came to know of a sanitary material when we joined high school. Before then my friends and I used to manage with anything. We finished up mattresses in our houses. I remember a day when a lady complained of unseen rats that were finishing up mattresses in their houses and we were just there seated besides her.  We innocently laughed about it the whole week.

My background and experience as a young girl made me work for adolescent girls. I currently work with more than 1500 adolescent of 10-19 who go through 9 months’ safe space training and mentorship.Having mentored 3000 girls already I am starting boys’ mentor-ship to help make them be champions of social change for girls. I advocate for menstrual hygiene and having provided four hundred and fifty dignity kits, we are working on supporting more girls with sanitary materials this year, just one pad a day to keep a girl in school.

Today millions of girls are out of school, most of them adolescent mothers with some divorced or even widowed. Hundreds drop out every day due to lack of resources, mentorship and a simple basic need like sanitary resource. I am here because of education, am where I am because a disabled father despite his abject poverty gave me opportunity to learn in the midst all cultural issues. That is why I would like to request you all to continue investing in girls.  Stand up for girls’ education, stand up for girls and women.  On this international day of Girl child, I would like us all to remember that girl walking miles to school, hungry and barefoot just for education. Remember that girl missing out on classes due to lack of menstrual materials. Remember that girl who is struggling to raise up a child while she is just a teenager whose dream to learn was charted due to early marriage. Remember that girl going through the worst kind of human rights violation called female genital mutilation. Remember this girl telling you her story, not for fun but to just inform you what vulnerable girls really go through in the process of learning. A society is its women and girls. Whatever we feed our girls is what we get at the end of it all. I urge you all to give girls opportunity to learn because once a girl is educated the whole community changes, even if it is just one girl. It is my believe that even a drop in an ocean will finally bring out that change.  Let girls learn, let them dream and grow.

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