When our school first discussed the place of females in the community, the whole class, girls and boys, laughed when I suggested there were no jobs or roles in society that girls could not aspire to.
We discussed traditional and cultural gender roles, looked at global female role models, examined job opportunities and the skills required, spoke about advances and changes in opportunities and attitude, in developing and developed nations, toward females.
We then had a debate on the topic of gender equality. The girls won it hands down. So, I put forward the same suggestion again, expecting to get a different response. I didn’t.
The girls firmly believed that it was their role after school to get married, have children, work in the home, and serve their husband.
There are many issues that perpetuate the discrimination females face in developing countries like Kenya, lack of access to good education, a high level of dropout rates once school is started, gender based violence and sexual abuse.
It was clear to me that we also faced an ingrained cultural perception that would also need to change if our female students were to make the most of the education we provide.
We have worked hard at changing attitudes and cultural practices in the school community. Our Sanitary Towels Program ensures the girls do not miss any time at school. Our debates and life skills sessions help put a focus on gender equality. We actually have more girls enrolled than boys at our school. We have intervened when parents have tried to marry off some of their girls as child brides. Our emergency accommodation is available to girls who are in danger of abuse and need refuge.
And now, with students like Winnie and Mariam, who are both pursuing tertiary education, and the two Halima’s, who are both in full time employment, we have our own role models for other young girls in our community to look at and aspire to follow.
Real and lasting change is a lengthy process but our efforts are bearing fruit. If you would like to join us in helping our girls embrace education as a way to self-empowerment and equality, then visit the sponsor page at our website today.