Girls at Bar Union Primary School
A reflection from Sarah Neff, one of the 2016 Umoja Project Field Interns, on a day with the Girls Empowerment Team:
We were privileged to attend a GET UP Junior meeting at Bar Union Primary School.
When we arrived, we were ushered into a sunlit classroom teaming with young girls. Their energy was infectious as they giggled and talked, waiting for the session to begin. The girls had come from all over the area, chosen to come to school on a Saturday to be with each other and to learn from the GET UP mentors.
These mentors, Grace and Monica, led the girls in a song to begin the session. Then, they took turns with different parts of the lesson. The focus of the day was on emotions—what emotions are, and how to cope with them as a young girl in Kenya. They talked about words like anxiety and shame. They described the way a girl would walk when she was experiencing success: “Success makes you walk this way,” said Monica, shaking her hips as she walked the aisle.
What was extraordinary about the lesson was the way these mentors related to the everyday lives of these girls, giving them the language and tools they need to face challenges confidently. They said that it’s ok to cry, that crying is a natural way for us to release the pressure inside us when sad things happen. They gave examples from real life—like when a parent dies, or a boy pressures you into a relationship. They taught that it’s important for the girls to have confidence and self-esteem so that they could stick to their convictions and dreams.
The girls listened attentively, raising their hand to volunteer scenarios from their experience. The lesson was simple, joyful, and the girls were dismissed after a snack and another song.
Later, we sat with the mentors to ask a few questions. Monica and Grace spoke about the many challenges these girls face—how the girl-child of Kenya is often the last to receive support for school and the first to drop out due to other pressures. They said that when they first started interacting with the girls, the girls had been too shy to speak—but now, they were beginning to speak up about their stories. Grace said that there is a noticeable impact in their performance in school. Not only are less girls dropping out (the number due to pregnancy, she said, was drastically reduced), but many girls are becoming the top achievers in their class.
The guest speaker of the day, Jen, told us that education changes the way an entire village will see a girl. “Girls must be educated,” she said, “I tell them, ‘read for your lives.’” Education is the most important factor for girls’ success, explained Jen, because ignorance allows the girls to be taken advantage of.
As we departed Bar Union, it was with a new hope for the girls we had met that day. The teaching they are receiving at GET UP is making them more confident in themselves and their rights; it is handing them the tools they need to face their daily challenges. We are excited to continue to hear how these girls continue to grow—how they succeed, and how they change their communities for the better. Girl by girl, lives are being changed here in Kenya!
Girl at Bar Union Primary School