Karen’s Story

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Educate A Child, Kajiado

“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.”

David’s Story

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Communicating hasn’t always been one of David’s strengths. A Class 7 student from Kajiado County, he lives with his parents and six younger siblings in a village 12 kilometers from Bissil town. To support the family, his parents go to town twice a week—sometimes more—to sell household goods like cups and plates at the market. Their shop remains busy until night, so they have to stay late and then spend the night in town.
When his parents weren’t around, David used to try preparing food for his siblings, but most days his parents left them with just bread and milk. Some nights they went to sleep hungry. Although David knew his parents were working to support the family, he felt increasingly frustrated by how much time they spent away from home. Because he didn’t know how to talk to his parents about how he felt, David started taking out his frustration on his teachers and classmates.

One Monday, David’s teacher greeted the class, and then asked David why his hair was uncombed and his uniform was torn and dirty. When he didn’t respond, she told him to go to the head teacher’s office. He stayed in his seat. His teacher walked over to try to physically remove him from the classroom, and David pulled out a knife. Another teacher heard the commotion and came to take the knife before anyone got hurt. David was told to report to school the next day with his parents.

When he and his parents arrived at school the next day, they talked with the head teacher, deputy head teacher and classroom teacher for hours about what could be done to give David the support he needed to succeed in school. It was one of his first opportunities to explain to his parents how he felt about the amount of time they spent away from home.

The teachers had an idea.

Girl Child Network had recently come to the school to establish a Rights of the Child Club, where students were learning about their rights and how to advocate for themselves. The teachers thought David could benefit from the trainings. They were especially hoping that he would learn some healthier and more productive ways of communicating his feelings.

They were right.

Girl Child Network officers taught David and his classmates about their rights and their responsibilities as children. He realized that he had a right to express his frustration, but a responsibility to do it in a way that didn’t hurt anyone around him. After a few weeks, David shared, “The club trainings enabled me to know my rights as a child. I learned to speak my mind whenever I feel hurt.”
This year, David was elected to be the vice chairperson of his Rights of the Child Club. Students like listening to his ideas; they say he makes a lot of sense. He still makes a lot of trips to the head teacher’s office, but for a different reason: he is now responsible for communication between the club and the school’s administration. Thanks to the training he got from Girl Child Network, he can now advocate for his own rights and the rights of others.

And David’s commitment to helping others doesn’t end there. He now proudly tells people, “I will become a teacher after school so that I may also change a child’s life.”

Ruth’s Story

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Kajiado, School Sanitation Improvement

Rainy days mean different things to different children: running outside to dance and pick up hailstones, staying dry indoors, taking careful steps to avoid puddles and potholes on the way to school. But for girls like Ruth, who only have one pair of panties, rainy days can be stressful, and can even keep her from participating in class.

Ruth, who is in class 5, lives in a pastoralist community in Kajiado County with her father and his two wives. Her mother isn’t the father’s favorite, so sometimes she and her children aren’t able to get the support they need from him. When he leaves with the cattle to find greener pastures Ruth’s mother is able to work for a bit of extra income, but after she pays for uniforms and shoes there’s little left. So when Ruth began menstruating, she relied on classmates to share their sanitary towels with her.

But of course sanitary towels can only be used with panties. And Ruth didn’t have a single pair, until her deskmate Florence brought her one. She was grateful, but when the rainy season came, she began to have problems. The panties would often still be wet when it was time for her to go to school. “I was forced to squeeze my wet panties with a dry cloth in the morning before I left for school,” she explains. “When I sat in class, I would get a wet patch on the back of my dress. I had to stay seated until my deskmate told me my dress was dry.”

Girl Child Network came to Ruth’s school to start a Rights of the Child Club, where students learn about their rights and get support to start school improvement projects. The students learned from Girl Child Network staff about how their bodies would change as they grew older, and how to use sanitary towels. And each girl received two new pairs of panties.

“When Girl Child Network intervened and provided panties to me and my classmates, my life changed,” Ruth explains. “I gained courage and improved my self-esteem in class because I had no fear of my wet panties. I could stand comfortably to answer and ask questions during lessons.”

And she’s doing even more at school than answering and asking questions. Ruth is now a leader in her Rights of the Child Club, organizing her classmates to take care of their poultry and garden projects. Girl Child Network has inspired her to give back to her school community: “I must improve someone’s life in the future, especially girls and boys undergoing the same challenges as me.”