Women’s empowerment is central to Aidlink’s work.
Happy International Women’s Day from all of the Aidlink team! Today is a special day for Aidlink as we are committed to the empowerment of women and girls and we work to promote and protect their rights in Kenya and Uganda. Through our programmes focussed on WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) and education, we target girls to ensure they have access to, and the resources to stay in, school.
Significant improvements to primary school enrolment rates across sub-Saharan Africa in the last decade hide the persistently low rates of completion and transition to secondary education, especially for girls. Cultural barriers such as FGM and child-marriage signal an end to school for many girls. Aidlink is working towards ending these harmful practices and ensuring all women have the education and opportunities they deserve.
Our plans for 2019 include the support of 9 primary schools with access to clean, safe water, and girl-friendly latrines (toilets) with a changing room that provides a safe space for girls to wash and change, particularly during menstruation. As a result, girls will have a fairer chance of attending school and these interventions will help make school a safer, healthier and happier place for 5,000 boys and girls. With a stronghold in the school, Aidlink and our partners are able to reach out into the community to make sure every child who should be in school, is in school, that girls are secure in the knowledge that they will not be married off in their early teens and will be allowed to complete their education.
We know that our work works! Our work in Kajaido County in Kenya has resulted in a 35% increase in the number of children enrolled in school, and a 27% increase in the number who complete primary school and carry on to secondary.
Educating girls and women leads to an empowerment in both themselves and their abilities. It also nurtures a better future for us all. If all girls went to school for 12 years, low and middle income countries could add $92 billion per year to their economies. We believe this is an investment in the future of our planet.
Aidlink and VAD have been training students in Menstrual Hygiene Management. For some, like Teopista, 15, this has made a big difference in their lives:
“I got my first period at 9, when I woke up with a stomach ache to find myself lying in blood. I was so afraid and as the oldest in my family, I didn’t have anybody to ask for help. Eventually, I found the courage to tell my grandmother, and she got me some old cloths to stop the bleeding; I’ve been doing this ever since. The training has taught me about my menstrual cycle, how to manage it and where I can go for support. It is now my job to educate younger girls in the community so that will not be afraid”.
The training aims to change attitudes amongst boys to create a supportive environment for young women. As Teopista’s classmate Conrad said: “I now understand that menstruation is normal. I will never laugh at the girls again”.
Photo: Buwanuka Primary School, Wakiso District, Uganda. Voluntary Action for Development.
Esther Koyiai, from Kajiado, Kenya, has 5 girls. When 2 daughters sat their primary school exams in 2013, she asked her husband, a powerful man in the Masai community, to sell some livestock to pay their fees but he refused, marrying the girls off instead.
In 2017, Esther attended a community conversation on education, led by the Girl Child Network (GCN). For the first time, she learnt that it was her responsibility to ensure her children went to school.
After the forum, Esther determined that all her children would receive an education. To pay their fees, she started to deliver milk to the local dairy for her neighbours, earning enough to also buy books and uniforms. By challenging community attitudes to the girl child and education, Aidlink and GCN are working to ensure all children will attend school, free from the fear of early marriage and FGM.
Photo: Peris Mootian