Nyanza in western Kenya has the worst indicators for girls and women across the country. Girls marry young, some as young as 12. They are vulnerable to violence, HIV, abuse and exploitation. Study after study has shown that education is key to empowering young girls to take charge of their lives, yet girls are continually forced to drop out of school due to early marriage.
Early marriage is perceived to reduce the chances of extra-marital sex and pregnancy, which would bring shame to the family. National surveys show that the Nyanza region has the highest incidence of teenage pregnancy in the country. There is also a high prevalence of HIV in girls aged 15-19, and physical and sexual violence against girls are widespread.
With little education, girls are ignorant of their rights and underestimate their own value to society.
NIGEE was set up to help girls who dropped out of school, mainly due to early marriage and pregnancy, to get a second chance at education and improve their chances for a better future.
NIGEE has supported 377 girls to enrol in school since its school programme began in 2013. Out of 66 girls who completed their secondary education since 2015, 21 were qualified for university entry. It also provides vocational training and offers a career advice service. It established a Girls Empowerment Centre run by girls that offers computer skills training, hairdressing and dressmaking classes.
The organisation has also stepped in to help those who are unable to return to school due to lack of available childcare by running “Bridge Centres” in informal slums where the girls can attend classes with their children.
NIGEE runs retreats during the school holidays that offer information on HIV/AIDS, reproductive health and family planning, while providing support to those who have suffered sexual violence. The organisation works closely with authorities in the four counties of Nyanza to help support fundraising events and to prioritise girls’ education in their budgets.
Photos: Thandiwe Muriu