Adolescent girls in Northern Kenya are subjected to a myriad of challenges including early marriage that prevents them from accessing education and attaining their full potential. 15 year old Hindiya from Wajir County is one of these young adolescents’ girls who due to forced marriage had never gone through education, not even pre-primary school.
In June 2015, thanks to interventions by the UKAID-funded Adolescent Girls Initiative Kenya Program (AGI-K), implemented by Save the Children, Hindiya got consent from her parents and spouse to join school and is now happily learning.
“My husband is 30. My marriage was not something I was prepared for. It is my parents who arranged the whole thing without me knowing and it was really a painful experience. I met my husband for the first time on the wedding day.
Hindiya, who does not have a child yet, participated as a respondent in the AGI-K survey conducted between March and June 2015 targeting adolescent girls aged 11 – 14 years old. She was eligible for the program since she was 14 at the time of the survey. Before her recruitment into the program, Hindiya was in the reserves herding animals such as goats and cattle.
Together with her parents, Hindiya attended the program sensitisation meetings where topical issues affecting the wellbeing of adolescent girls were discussed. She started participating in the ‘safe spaces’ where girls, through interactive sessions and mentoring, are tutored on topics such as early marriages, leadership, communication and decision making, gender based violence, sexual and reproductive rights, gender norms and more.
Inspired by the sensitisation meetings, safe spaces, conditional cash transfers and other basic supplies such as school kits, Hindiya, with the support of her parents and spouse, decided to enroll in the only primary school in her village and is already in her second year with great scores “I want to complete school and become a teacher so that I can speak up for girls education, educate my community and support younger girls so that they don’t get married early. You see, getting married early almost killed my dream for education.”
When asked how they decided to enroll Hindiya in school, her father says: “We attended the meetings conducted here in our village through this program and understood that girls education is a right, just the same way boys are given the opportunity to attend school. Through the meetings we saw the value of girls, we understood that they need to be given the opportunity to attend school and learn so that they live a better life instead of being dependant on their parents ortheirhusbands.”
Mr. Khalif, the head teacher at Abdillegaab primary school says: “The enrolment of girls in the school has increased since the roll-out of the AGI-K program. Many young adolescent girls who were in the reserves herding livestock, have enrolled in this school and are attending the program’s safe spaces. Sensitisation meetings on the values of girl child conducted through this program have added weight to this subject matter -a sign that my community is now changing for the better.”
What is Adolescent Girls Initiative
The program was rolled out in April 2015 to deliver multisector interventions to girls’ aged 11-14 years in two marginalised areas of Kenya: The Kibera slums in Nairobi and Wajir county in north-eastern Kenya.
Adolescent girls and in particular those from the North-eastern region face huge risks and vulnerabilities that affect their education status, health and general wellbeing. In addition to low educational attainment and health risks – including early marriage, teenage pregnancy, early and unprotected sexual activity, non-consensual sex - , other factors that impact their education and health outcomes include household poverty, lack of economic independence, limited income opportunities, illiteracy, violence and social isolation. Save the Children through this program is intervening at the community level and helping girls break the cycle of poverty and discrimination.
The program is funded by the UK department for international development (DFID). The Program is being implemented by a highly qualified consortium led by Population Council in partnership with African Population Health and Research Centre and Itad as research partners. Save the Children is the implementing agency in Wajir and has so far reached approximately 3000 girls. Plan international is the implementing partner in Kibera slums within Nairobi County.