This guest post from the Grassroots Girls Initiative shares the voices of girls from Fortress of Hope Africa, an nonprofit organization that AJWS supports in Nairobi, Kenya.
The Situation for Girls
Growing up among rampant poverty, crime and few opportunities for employment, adolescents and young people make up a significant proportion of the populations in Nairobi’s slums. Girls are significantly more likely to be out of school than boys and are more at risk of violence.
The Organic Solution
In 2006, Fortress of Hope Africa was opened to provide a safe space within the slum to socially and economically empower disadvantaged girls, train them as leaders and support them in developing and implementing their own program ideas. The girls of Fortress are continuing to grow their own organic solutions that include a dance crew, street theater performances promoting gender equality and weekly workshops on self-esteem, health and hygiene and sexual and reproductive rights. Read More
Munija Khatun. Photo Credit: Lydia Holden
“My father says not to go to school, that I should be at home. ‘You are marriageable,’ he tells me,” sighs Munija Khatun, 15, as she mashes onions with a pestle for their dinner of fish stew. “My father has two families and takes responsibility for the first family, but not my family. Father comes one or two times a month and dominates the family. He asks why this or why that, why go to school?”
While Munija’s mother toils tirelessly to support her children’s education, her monthly income of 500 rupees ($9) from selling pop rice scarcely covers basic necessities, making the monthly 100 rupees ($1.2) government school fee for each child formidable. Munija helps her mother as much as she can, rising at 5 a.m. to wash the dishes, clean their brick and straw home and take care of the cow. After school, Munija finishes the day’s cleaning, helps her mother prepare dinner and studies for three hours by kerosene lamp. Even with all of her tenacity and hard work, Munija worries she will be married off to become another family’s property, a common occurrence in this remote West Bengal village; by eighth grade 80 percent of girls are pulled out of school for marriage. Read More
A community outreach team run by AJWS grantee, Fortress of Hope, teaches about gender-based violence. Photo: Evan Abramson
Last week on October 11th, the United Nations commemorated the very first International Day of the Girl. My colleagues and I were still reeling from the tragic shooting of Malala Yousafzai, the 14-year-old Pakistani activist who was unjustly targeted for going to school and speaking up for her right to get an education. But we were grateful for the outpouring of support for the UN’s decision to dedicate a day to advancing the status of girls worldwide.
AJWS is committed to promoting girls’ rights, preventing gender-based violence and improving access to education and healthcare for girls in the developing world.
A few sobering facts:
- Two-thirds of the world’s children who receive less than four years of education are girls. Girls represent nearly 60% of the children not in school.
- Child marriage is a threat to the fundamental human rights of girls, and to the health of communities.
- Ten million girls every year become child brides.
- One in seven girls in the developing world marries before she turns 15. These young girls are forced into motherhood before their bodies are ready, and too many die giving birth as a result.
- Every year, some 14 million adolescent girls give birth. They are two to five times as likely to die owing to pregnancy-related complications than women in their twenties, and their babies are less likely to survive. Read More