“I am speaking on behalf of all girls in Kajiado.” Karen was addressing her classmates, teachers, and community leaders at the commemoration of the International Day of the Girl Child. “We need to work hard in school so that we can become leaders of tomorrow.”
Karen’s own path to becoming a leader has had its challenges. Her father does his best to support his family of six by selling boiled eggs around Kajiado town, but he doesn’t always make enough to put food on the table or cover school fees, books, and uniforms for his children. Occasionally, Karen would be sent home from school for not having the fees, which made her feel embarrassed and frustrated. To avoid potentially getting sent home, she started skipping school with a group of her friends. Karen later explained that even when she did go to school, she didn’t understand how it would help her build a better life for herself and her family.
Luckily, she happened to be at school the day Girl Child Network came to start a Rights of the Child Club. Our officers talked to the students about their right to education and the kinds of opportunities they could have if they stayed in school. Karen’s interest was piqued. At one of the meetings, students were discussing careers they could have after they finished school, and someone mentioned being a neurosurgeon. When Karen found out she could help people around the country by fixing problems in their brains, something clicked in her mind. She finally had her reason for staying in school.
Our officers noticed that she had begun actively participating in the club, so they pulled her aside after one of the training sessions to talk to her more about her dreams. They encouraged her to work hard in school, especially in her science classes, and to make sure she came to school every day she could. Karen is now a prefect in her class, and is one of the best students in the school in sciences, English, and mathematics. She’s even the best in 100 and 200 meter races!
Because her teachers and fellow students saw that she was a rising leader in the school, Karen was nominated to speak at the commemoration of the International Day of the Girl Child. She had powerful words to share with those who attended. In addition to admonishing parents who marry their daughters early in order to receive a “bride price,” Karen explained exactly why it’s so important that girls stay in school: “Girls should be given an opportunity to study because they are the presidents, MPs, and other leaders of tomorrow for Kenya.”