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technology 25 Nov 2019

UNESCO laureate creating hope for girls to go back to school in Kenya

By Waiswa Wafula

Through the work of Girl Child network, Laureate of the 2020 UNESCO Prize for Girls’ and Women’s Education, Ruth Mayiani, a 12-year-old student from Kajiado County is now in grade 6 revising for her exams.

“I would be out of school and married now without the help of our community facilitator.” she said.

Ruth dreams of becoming an engineer after she completes her education.

The Girl Child Network challenges harmful practices such as FGM and early marriages that can lead to a girl missing out on the opportunity to get an education. The group also picks out girls who had dropped out of school and facilitate for their enrollment.

“Becoming a laureate of the UNESCO Prize has been instrumental to the work of Girl Child Network, and in particular to support community facilitators and village tracking committees in their work,” says Mercy Musomi, Executive Director of Girl Child Network.

According to a report by the schools in the area through the Ministry of Education, 25% of learners are yet to report to school. Majority of these cases are girls who have dropped out due to early marriages and teenage pregnancies.

“The current context is proving to be a challenging one,” explains Mary Tanny, Ruth’s community facilitator. “Depressed income streams are leading households to opt to marry off their young girls.”

Ruth’s father was a good example as he had made plans to marry off his daughter for the financial assistance to support his family. Despite the negotiations being underway, Mary and her colleagues intervened and after a week-long process, the marriage was stopped with Ruth joining school again.

“Mary taught me that education was a right for all and convinced me to allow Ruth to continue her education,” says Ruth’s father. “Now, I will do what it takes to support my daughter’s education.”

Since becoming a Laureate of the UNESCO Prize for Girl’s and women’s Education in 2020, Girl Child Network has strengthened its work to increase girls’ access to education in Kenya’s most remote areas. Nearly 100 cases of early marriages have been stopped with the girls enrolled back to school.

“With the resources received from the Prize, we were able to visit families weekly instead of monthly, and move from one village to another with ease to reach more girls,” says Mary. 

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