Kisumu County, in western Kenya, is one of the counties in Kenya with the lowest enrolment rate of girls compared to boys in secondary education and an alarmingly high drop-out rate (33.6%) of adolescent girls.
Major reasons for the high dropout rate as highlighted by a study conducted by the County Department of Education (2010) include: (i) poverty or poor economic conditions resulting in an inability to pay for school fees; (ii) early pregnancies which most likely results into early marriages to cover up the ‘shame’ or neglect; (iii) peer pressure; (iv) Traditions and culture values which prioritizes boy child education instead of girls; and (v) family circumstances for example, girls who come from poor or single parent households and struggle with accessing basic needs such as clothes, sanitary pads for menstruation or food for the day, often find themselves in such desperate situations that when a man offers to pay for lunch or give them some money in exchange for sex, it is not an offer a girl can afford to refuse.
A study by ICRW conducted in Kisumu 2020, also indicates the two direct precursors to child marriages are pregnancy and school dropout, but the trajectories leading to early marriage start in the socioeconomic environment. The two most common environmental factors highlighted are economic insecurity and gender inequality, which set adolescent girls on a path leading to early marriage.
The harmful consequences of early marriage have been well documented and often means the end of a girls’ formal education, limited economic prospects, constrained social engagement, increased health risks and heightened risk of physical, emotional and sexual violence (SGBV).
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government of Kenya has enforced measures aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19, which include a ban on social gatherings, curfews, Closure of learning institutions, restrictions on in-country travel as well as encouraging people to work from home and reinforcing preventive measures. These measures have had adverse economic effects with companies forced to send their staff on unpaid leave or cutting pay.
Consequently, many households have lost their source of livelihood. Cases of gender based violence are on the rise with many survivors trapped with their aggressors, and access to reproductive health information and services is limited.
Further, with the loss of livelihoods particularly in low-income households, some children or adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) may be forced into income-generating activities to support their families’ survival. Also, school closure has stopped the provision of school meals and sanitary towels, which children from disadvantaged families rely on significantly. This raises the risks of young girls engaging in transactional sex in order to gain not only access to these essential needs but also to support their families.
As a results many of our adolescent girls and young women risk not going back to school come 2021. Sadly, majority of these girls does not want to drop out school, it is not a choice, but rather a must in order to cover one’s basic needs.
This is why we request for your support to help us ensure the most vulnerable of these girls return to school come 2021. Your support will go towards:
- Providing bursaries/sponsor bright but needy girls;
- Provide them with basic necessities – uniforms, sanitary towels, soap, body lotion, exercise books etc.
- Hold sessions in schools to provide sexual and reproductive health and rights information and services among AGYW.
Any amount will be appreciated.