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Top 10 Facts About Girls' Education in Kenya 
Kenya is a country located on the eastern coast of the African continent with ongoing reforms for tremendous political, social and economic development. The first steps of these reforms began with the passage of a new constitution in 2010 that introduced a bicameral legislative house and devolved county government. Whilst these developments are taking place, the country faces challenges fighting poverty, inequality, climate change and the vulnerability of the economy to internal and external fluctuations.

A huge subset of these challenges facing Kenya is girls education. Similar to the countries across the continent, Kenya portrays a reality where girls are denied their right to education due to social and cultural norms, such as child marriage and female genital cutting aside from economic barriers. These top 10 facts about girls’ education in Kenya reveal some of the historical contexts for these hurdles, the challenges for better access and steps being taken toward future goals. 

Top 10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Kenya

  1. In 2003, Kenya enacted a law that made primary education free. As a result of this legislation, enrollment rates increased to 84 percent. 
  2. This legislation by the government had a positive outcome at large; however, it was found that in some regions where poverty and gender inequality are particularly high, only 19 percent of girls were in school. 
  3. From the student population that enrolls in the first year of school, one in five (or less) make it to their eighth year. This high rate of dropouts is a result of early marriage, female genital cutting, poverty and other factors. 
  4. Female genital cutting is a historically and culturally rooted social tradition that has reached as high as 89 percent of the female population in marginalized areas such as the Maasailand in Kenya. 
  5. While the practice of genital cutting is illegal in Kenya, lots of parents in marginalized areas still subject their girls to female genital cutting with the aim of eliminating teenage pregnancies and increasing girls’ chances for marriage. 
  6. Although primary education is free, a family still holds the responsibility of paying for textbooks, uniforms and teachers’ salaries. Moreover, if a child is going to school, it also means that they are not spending time contributing to the family’s income. Such an occurrence adds a perceived loss in addition to the cost of going to school. This is particularly worse for girls who are expected to marry early and join their husband’s family. 
  7. In 2016, the U.N. reported that an estimated one in 10 girls in Sub-Saharan Africa miss school during their menstrual cycle due to an inability to access affordable sanitary products. 
  8. Despite its many obstacles, Kenya has met some Millennium Development Goals with targets — including reduced child mortality, near universal primary school enrolment and narrowed gender gaps in education. 
  9. A step for progress, President Uhuru Kenyatta signed the Basic Education Amendment Act requiring the government to provide free sanitary towels to schoolgirls in 2017 and allocated $4.6 million to the gender department ministry for the projects. 
  10. One year of secondary education for a girl in Kenya corresponds to over 25 percent increase in wages; if girls were to finish their secondary education, child marriage would be reduced by at least 50 percent. 

Investing in Girls’ Education in Kenya

Long-standing traditions and beliefs along with high levels of poverty are seemingly huge hurdles to overcome; however, the pursuit of providing more than half of the Kenyan population with access to education is a challenge worth taking — especially when it has the potential for great social and economic returns. 

– Bilen Kassie
Photo: Flickr

 

Period Poverty in Kenya
Period poverty is widespread through many parts of the world, where women miss school while menstruating, cannot afford sanitary products and are misinformed about their own biology. Kenya in particular experiences this problem, since 65 percent of Kenyan women cannot afford sanitary napkins. Period poverty affects women in Kenya in disproportional ways that prevent them from achieving economic and social equality with men.

5 Facts about Period Poverty in Kenya

  1. Some women have traded sex for sanitary products. Shockingly, two out of three feminine pad users in rural Kenya receive their products from sexual partners. Perhaps the saddest outcome of how period poverty affects women in Kenya is the fact that these women exchange sex in return for feminine products, sometimes at ages as young as 13. This can further complicate girls’ lives because of the culture of miseducation. One in four girls do not associate menstruation with pregnancy and therefore do not realize the risks of engaging in sexual relations.
  2. Ten percent of girls in sub-Saharan Africa, where Kenya is located, miss school when menstruating. Because of the culture of shame surrounding menstruation, girls often miss school while menstruating since they do not have the proper products to deal with their period. Very few girls receive education about their period before it begins and according to recent research many girls are misinformed. For example, there is a belief among these young girls that they can only get pregnant while menstruating. Only 50 percent of girls say that they openly discuss menstruation at home. Another reason girls miss school is that only 32 percent of rural schools have facilities where girls can change the products for the period during the day.
  3. Free sanitary products for girls in Kenya are appearing. In June 2017, President Uhuru Kenyatta signed an amendment to the education law that states: free, sufficient, and quality sanitary towels must be provided to every school-registered girl, as well as a safe place to use and dispose of the products. Though only $5 million in the budget has been allocated for this purpose, it offers hope to continued changes that will keep girls in school.
  4. Some local charities have designed locally sourced, reusable, and affordable pads. On the coast of Kenya, one charity, Tunaweza, worked hard to provide period products to women. Using local materials like kitenge and flannel, Tunaweza brought sanitary products to many girls in rural schools. Additionally, when the charity connected with girls, it also used that opportunity to teach them about puberty, hygiene, and gender-based violence.
  5. Raise the Roof Kenya, started by British Holly Bantleman in U.K., works on the ground to fight against the effects of period poverty in Kenya. Started in 2012, the organization has supported 150 youths to employment and provided over 45,000 women with the management of menstrual hygiene. Now, they are seeking to expand and build a center that can employ women to make sustainable pads for the community.

Kenya has seen a great change in the position of women since their new constitution in 2010 that provided great gender equality. Attitudes have begun changing and women’s rights marches have seen greater prominence. In the future, hopefully, this improvement will lessen the shame surrounding menstruation so that the country can truly combat the adverse effects of period poverty in Kenya.

– Grace Gay
Photo: Flickr

Light of Hope Girls’ School
Primary and secondary education in Kenya is progressing, but it continues to leave inequalities unaddressed between boys’ and girls’ in regards to schooling. Because of social and domestic norms, girls are expected to stay home more often than boys. Additionally, in impoverished countries like Kenya, any money that may pay for schooling is typically allocated primarily for the boys in the family — a reality that too often results in a lack of education for girls in Kenya.

The Importance of Girls’ Education

In Kenya, girls account for 44 percent of children not enrolled in school and 51 percent of the illiterate population aged 15-24. This lack of education for girls harms the country’s progress towards a better educated and economically stable populous.

Educating women is the key to decreasing poverty. As girls’ education increases, population growth, fertility and infant/child mortality rates fall and overall family health improves. When girls are more educated, they are more ready and able to enter the labor force, which brings money back to the family and betters the economy in which educated women live.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), women on average reinvest up to 90 percent of their earnings back into their households. When women have better education, and therefore higher earning power, they are able to spend more money on their households. That money is typically spent on nutrition, food, healthcare and education. All of the aforementioned categories in which women typically reinvest their money are keys to raising families and communities out of abject poverty.

The Light of Hope Girls’ School

In an effort to continue to make progress educating girls in Kenya and to ensure that the school teachers are equipped with the knowledge and confidence they need to bring an end to poverty, Boni and Sandy Karanja established The Light of Hope Girls’ School in Naivasha, Kenya in 2005 with only six studentsIn 2013, its first class of girls graduated from the school, and in 2015, the school had grown large enough to accept 160 students.

The Light of Hope Girls’ School in Kenya seeks to bridge the inequality between boys and girls education by educating girls in Kenya. Not only does the school offer a proper education for girls with otherwise no access to it, it also provides housing, healthcare and emotional support to their students. Many of the girls live at The Light of Hope Girls’ School due to poor or dangerous home lives. Leaving situations such as abandonment, abuse or abject poverty, the girls are able to find a home and get a proper education at the school.

Beyond the standard schooling, The Light of Hope Girls’ School seeks to empower girls to become future leaders for change in their communities. The staff at the school work to ensure that the environment at Light of Hope is one of peace and love, a place where the girls can find “refuge, restoration and redirection.” By instilling confidence, leadership skills and compassion into each of the students, the school teaches those girls how to take what they have learned and pass it on to someone else.

– Savannah Hawley
Photo: Flickr