Before her 18th birthday, one in four girls in Kenya is already married.
In many parts of Kenya, before girls are married, they are supposed to undergo "female circumcision," otherwise known female genital mutilation. This dangerous procedure can lead to immediate infections and can later cause problems with childbirth.
Once girls are married, they are more likely to become HIV positive. A study in one region of Kenya showed that 33% of married girls were HIV positive, while only 22% of sexually active unmarried girls were.
But when a girl finishes secondary school, she is six times less likely to marry young.
Education is one of the most effective ways to combat child marriage and the high rates of HIV that accompany it. When girls stay in school, they avoid the economic and health risks of marrying early.
On top of that, a girl with an extra year of education can earn 20% more as an adult, and educated mothers are more than twice as likely as uneducated mothers to send their children to school.
But education doesn't stop with girls. Parents, school leaders, community leaders and teachers also need education about enrolling and retaining girls in school. We work with them to build school communities that include everyone from girls to orphans to children with disabilities.
In the last 15 years, we have enrolled 276,439 children in primary school.
We have also trained 27,141 community members to advocate for better access to education for girls and other marginalized children.
We’ve established 815 Rights of the Child Clubs, which empower students to stand up for their own rights.
We’ve constructed 115 toilets and installed 49 water tanks, improving students’ sanitation at school.
And we’ve supported the renovation of 4 Educational Assessment and Resource Centres, which help identify children with special needs early so that they can start receiving intervention services as soon as possible.
The amazing girls we know keep inspiring us to push for community-level and national changes that will create more inclusive schools and communities.