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Newsletter - Maua Street and Destitute Children's Home

5 ways we are helping close the gender equality gap in Kenya

To celebrate International Women’s Day, we hear from two incredible African women working for New Life Nyambene, about five ways the street children's charity is championing the rights of women and girls in Kenya.

In a country where over half of teenage girls still don't enrol in secondary school, your sponsorship has enabled girls in Kenya to progress not just through secondary school but on to college and university. Considering their earliest years of childhood were spent homeless, living on the streets, this is a huge achievement for them, and when better to celebrate than International Women’s Day. Here are some of the factors that have helped us promote gender equality within the communities we work:

            Purity, who is responsible for the welfare of our children

1. Employing women in positions of leadership:

Purity: “I am the children’s matron, in charge of their welfare. I have many responsibilities - taking the children to hospital when they are unwell; attending school meetings; ensuring the children have their uniform and other items when going to school; ensuring their clothes and shoes are repaired and that they maintain personal cleanliness. Before this, I worked as the librarian for Tuuru Primary school, with the Kenya National Bureau of statistics, and as a voter registrar in the general elections. My hope is that when the girls see me as a professional woman they will see the importance of education.”

Mary: “I am the head of an organisation in Kenya called Economics Projects Transformation Facility (EPTF) a Christian organization that develops entrepreneurs through training, mentoring and provision of other Business Development services enabling to become agents of change in the community. EPTF has the contract to supervise the management of the New Life Nyambene project. My role is to provide leadership, I mentor and coach staff, I create partnerships and relationships, I look for finances to fund our work, I provide organizational direction, I motivate the team. Before this I was running my own consulting firm. I try to be a role model for girls, to be a good example, mentor and coach. They see you make it and they believe they can also make it. It’s not easy but I pray and always ask God to help me inspire them in the right way.”

Mary, who oversees the management of our street children's project in Kenya

2. Reversing the culture of female genital mutilation by preventing any girls in our care being circumcised:

Purity: “Female genital mutilation is a big challenge in Kenya,it is difficult to eradicate it in Kenyan communities as it is viewed as culture. Complications are brought about by personnels who perform the act and don't mind about the safety of the girl. The entire procedure is very painful. It is a lifelong physical pain to the girl, it causes psychological trauma and puts her at a high risk of contracting HIV/AIDs and other sexually transmitted diseases. It leads to excessive bleeding and brings about complications during childbirth. It may also lead to school dropout due to health problems.”

3. Providing sanitary pads so girls don't miss school:

Mary: “Poor girls can’t afford sanitary towels because the cost is equivalent to a packet of milk in Kenya so for a poor family they would rather buy food and not sanitary towels. If girls cannot buy them, they stop going to school during that period, or they use very unhygienic methods.

Purity: “There are a lot of challenges a girl experiences when they cannot afford sanitary pads. The girl may fail to go to school, it leads to poor performance due to missed classes. They exclude themselves from others friends and classmates. It lowers one’s self esteem as it is seen as a shameful example when one get stains. I always make sure our girls have sanitary pads”.

4. Aiming higher - Supporting girls to reach further education:

Purity: “I currently support four girls in further education. Winfred Kathambi is studying for a Bachelor's degree in Education; Christabel Gacheri a Diploma in Business Procurement; Christine Kendi is training in Cosmetology; and Joyce KarimiFood Service and Production. All four were street children before.

I also support other girls who used to be homeless to go to school and prepare for college and university in future. The girls need academic guidance, career choice guidance and financial support. They also need, teachings on contemporary society issues such as drug abuse and early marriages, how to overcome life challenges, and how to appreciate themselves despite what they have been through in their past such as street life and negligence”.

5. Equipping Kenya’s next generation of female workers

Mary: “There are many factors that stop African women from working: getting married too early, giving birth too early, family violence, discrimination against women in the society and low self esteem. To become professionals and successful in future, girls need education, encouragement, mentoring and protection”.

Purity: “Other barriers Kenyan girls face to work are discrimination in work places; poor salaries which does not meet the rising economic situations in the country; and long working hours when girls are also meant to take care of their families. I asked my girlswhy they want to go to college or university. They said to achieve their careers, become independent on their own, and in order to enlighten and help the needy in the society. They said they want to encourage other Kenyans to cultivate the culture of giving for improving other people's life, fighting corruption and to come up with project that will help solve problems faced by communities - such as boreholes to solve water problems.The girls said that some people feel that street children cannot transform fully – for example at school when a friend learns that once one was a street child they start avoiding you. But other people do love and care and believe that something good can come out of them.”

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