Girl child crusader seek to change lives in Kilifi County

Girls in Ganze Sub-county in Kilifi County face many challenges that affect their academic performance.Picture: Courtesy
Girls in Ganze Sub-county in Kilifi County face many challenges that affect their academic performance.Picture: Courtesy

As the International Day of the Girl Child is marked this year many advocates continue to fight for her rights.

The International Day of the Girl Child is marked with global action for increased investment in collection and analysing girl; focused, girl relevant and sex disaggregated data.

This year, the theme for the International Day of the Girl Child is Girls Progress+ Goals Progress: What Counts for the Girl.

The girl child remains vulnerable and needs to be to be protected especially from early and forced marriage which remains a barrier to her getting education. Girl child brides, as noted by United Nations, remain vulnerable to physical and sexual violence and bear children when they are not yet emotionally and physically prepared.

This is particularly worse for girls who come from poor households, and who are more in need to be protected so that they can finish school and fulfil their dreams, as well as be able to break away from the cycle of poverty.

In Kilifi County, Cecilia Mrima, Principal of Ganze Girls’ Secondary School stands out as a great advocate of the girl child and she has vowed to support bright and needy girls in their education.

Mrima has been a mother and mentor to the bright and needy girls in Ganze Sub-County and this has seen many of them complete their studies without interference.

Speaking to the Reject, Mrima who is a crusader of the girl child education said her passion is to see more girls retained in school as opposed to them dropping out of school because they cannot raise the required amount of money.

“It pains me to see bright girls drop out of school because they come from a poor family. I always admit them to school and support them until they finish their studies,” she noted.

Mrima said it is a big challenge for the school to maintain the girls because their needs are more than that of boys.

Through teachers and well-wishers, Mrima has been able to solicit support for the girls’ basic needs during the period that they are in school. At the same time she also looks for sponsors to support them with school fees.

“Girls require more than the boy child. They must have sanitary towels, soap and enough underwear among other things. We admit them with what they have and look for well-wishers to provide books,” she explained.

However, Mrima also creates awareness and sensitises the community with the message that reiterates the importance of educating the girl child. For this reason, majority have been referring needy cases to her.

Mrima does not send the girls away but retains them in school while the parent is encouraged to pay whatever amount they can get.

“It does not help when you send the child back at home since she becomes vulnerable to sexual harassment which might result to early pregnancy,” she noted.

Kilifi County ranks top among other counties in Kenya in the number of sexual and physical violence cases against the girl child. In the period 2016-2017133 girls fell pregnant. Out of these 57 were aged between 11-15 years, 60 were in the age bracket 16-18 and 16 were 18 years and above.

During the same period, 205 girls were defiled. Out of these 16 were aged between zero and five years, 14 aged between six and ten years, 82 aged 11 to 15 years, 72 were in the age bracket 16-18 years and 21 were in the age group 18 years and above.

In the same period there were 54 child marriages of which 22 were in the age bracket 11-15 years while 23 were in the age group 16-18 years. Those on the age group 18 and above were 9. The same period saw 39 cases of incest reported.

With these challenges, the girl child remains vulnerable especially because the community has normalised some of these issues like incest and defilement as well as forced marriages,” said Kennedy Owino, Children’s Officer Kilifi North Sub-County. He added: There were over 1568 cases of physical violence on the girl child reported.

However, Owino noted that most of these cases are not reported because they are deeply entrenched in culture. “Where a girl gets pregnant, she is forced to drop out of school and marry the man responsible for the pregnancy.”

Success

However, Mrima with support the girls can go far. She noted that one of the girls supported by the school emerged the best in Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examinations while other four completed their studies and are now working.

Mrima’s rallying call to the girls is that they should not give up despite the hardship they are going through.

“One of the girls joined the Kenya Defence Force (KDF) last year and another is a student at Maseno University. They have now cleared the school fees debt,” said Mrima.

In March this year, Mrima received 20 bright and needy girls who are being supported by the recently formed Ganze Education Rescue Fund.

The girls had scored above 300 marks and had not joined secondary schools due to lack of fees.

She noted that the most motivating thing is that all the needy students are always bright students. “The girls are willing to learn. They are easy to handle because they do not have discipline issues due to their humble background,” said Mrima.

And as the International Day of the Girl Child is marked, Mrima called upon well-wishers to support the girls with school fees among other basic needs to enable them attain their goals in education for the better of the community.

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