What About The Boys?

Sometimes asked just out of curiosity, other times with concern, we hear this question a lot. It’s a good question, and it has an important answer.

First, let’s talk about why Kakenya’s Dream focus on girls.

A group of KCE students at KCE play together between classes.

A group of KCE students at KCE play together between classes.

 

Almost all societies are patriarchal, meaning women and girls face gendered challenges that their male peers do not experience.* In our community, this includes harmful traditional practices like female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), lack of access to education and economic resources, and violence against women. Boys often receive preferential treatment, from larger portions at meals to greater support for their studies.

These gendered challenges hold women and girls back and prevent them from contributing their utmost to society. When these barriers are removed, it’s been shown time and time again that the result—more empowered women and girls—is a catalyst for broad community transformations, including economic growth (try here, here, and here if you’d like to learn more).

For example, when girls are given access to education, the entire community benefits. Not only are educated girls less likely to marry early, undergo FGM, and become pregnant, they are shown to invest in their communities at higher rates than men. Educated women are also less likely to live in poverty and statistically improve overall quality of life for their families and communities. The list of benefits goes on and on.**

We’ve seen this take place in front of our own eyes in rural Kenya, forming the foundation of our model. It’s why we’re what’s called a girl-centric organization. We target girls to improve life for everyone in the community: girls, their families, and yes, also the boys.

That said, boys and men are still key to the work we do and the community-wide transformation we are trying to bring. From the beginning, we’ve worked with fathers and other men in the community to help them see the value in supporting girls and we’ve continued to expand these opportunities. Here are just a few of the ways we’re reaching men and boys today:

Group of boys and young men at a breakout session at one of our Health and Leadership Trainings.

Group of boys and young men at a breakout session at one of our Health and Leadership Trainings.

 

At our co-ed weekend Health and Leadership Trainings, we provide both boys and girls the information and skills the need to be healthy and happy. We cover everything from sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDs to basic hygiene. Boys learn about some of the challenges girls face, including female genital mutilation/cutting and stigma around menstruation, empowering them to become allies and advocates for change.

  • Fathers

In our community, fathers and daughters traditionally did not mix. Girls would go through their mother to ask their father’s permission for something, and even that is rare. We’re changing that at the Kakenya Center for Excellence. We invite fathers to visit each month to check in on their daughter. What starts as a parent conference about her grades slowly blossoms into a relationship. Fathers and daughters get to know each other. One father recently transformed from protesting his daughter’s education to proudly escorting her to her first day of high school in Nairobi just a few years -- his first time to the city.

Naomi, a Network for Excellence student, and her father. They’ve built a close relationship since she first started at KCE as a fourth grader. She will graduate from high school in 2017.

Naomi, a Network for Excellence student, and her father. They’ve built a close relationship since she first started at KCE as a fourth grader. She will graduate from high school in 2017.

 

  • Male Community Leaders

A key part of our model is the importance of bringing the whole community along in the work we do. In addition to working with the chief and other leaders, we also have a passionate Community Board made up of both men and women. The men are strong role models and encourage other men to stand up for girls’ education and against harmful traditional practices.

Pastor James is our Community Board Chair. He uses his platform as a well-respected leader in the community to advocate for girls’ education.

Pastor James is our Community Board Chair. He uses his platform as a well-respected leader in the community to advocate for girls’ education.

 

To learn more about our programs, check out the Our Approach page.

*While women and girls face different, gendered challenges, that is not to say that men and boys are not affected by poverty, lack of quality health care, poor educational systems, and other issues. Indeed, there are even some challenges that disproportionately affect men and boys, such as child soldiering. However, oppression of women and girls is systemic, meaning it is widespread and supported implicitly or explicitly by institutions (such as the Church or government), leading to devastating disadvantages. Men and boys also benefit from this oppression in some ways, intentionally or not. Increased efforts must be made to support all people suffering in the face of injustice.

** For a great summary of why investing in girls matters, check out this report from Plan International.

Periods Matter & Period Matters: Understanding the Link Between Menstruation & Education

In anticipation of the global Menstrual Health Day on May 28, 2016, let’s take this opportunity to talk about the link between girls’ education (and lives!) and menstruation.

As in many places worldwide, women and girls in our community struggle to find safe and hygienic ways to manage their periods. Sanitary napkins are often hard to find and prohibitively expensive. Myths around menstruation also tell girls their periods are dirty, shameful, unlucky, and even a disease. This stigma, combined with few affordable and safe options to manage menstruation, impedes girls’ access to education.

A growing body of research illuminates the extent of this problem. A recent study found that just 32% of rural schools in Kenya had a place for girls to privately change their menstrual hygiene product. Another showed Kenyan girls miss about 3-7 days of school each month because of menstruation. These data aren’t unique to Kenya either; this UNESCO report estimates that 1 in 10 girls in sub-Saharan Africa miss at least some school while on their period.

Each year, Menstrual Health Day reignites conversation about this crucial link between menstruation and keeping girls in school. At Kakenya’s Dream, we empower girls to take control of their own menstrual health. At the KCE boarding school, we educate girls about menstruation and provide sanitary napkins. Our nurse practitioner visits several times a week too, providing access to health care in case of infection or other concerns.

In order to fight the stigma and harmful myths around menstruation, our co-ed Health and Leadership Trainings give both boys and girls the facts. Now, boys are supporting and advocating for their menstruating peers.

Menstruation should not be a barrier to go to school. It’s a normal and healthy part of life, and providing girls the resources they need ensures they can be healthy and happy too.

 

JOIN US ON MENSTRUAL HEALTH DAY

We’ll be live-tweeting, instagramming, and posting on Facebook in the lead up to and during Menstrual Health Day. Connect with us on social media and use #MHday to join in the fun. (LINKS TO SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS)

Ready, Set, Read!: KCE celebrates new library

Eight years ago, KCE completed the first building on campus. It was small, with space for only one classroom, but it provided a safe environment for our first 26 students to learn and grow.

Today, more than 150 girls call the KCE campus home. They live in comfortable dormitories, learn in bright classrooms, and eat and play in the spacious Multi-Purpose Hall. KCE’s newest space—the brand new library—is the final piece in our campus puzzle. After months of careful planning and construction, the library was completed at the end of March. The many shelves, movable tables, and bright blue chairs make the library a perfect space for our growing scholars to learn, create, and collaborate.

Our girls love to read, so it's no surprise that the new library is already the busiest building on campus. Students of all ages drop by to find new books to read, finish homework, and study with their peers.

English teacher Mr. Okello helps one of his 7th grade students in the library.

English teacher Mr. Okello helps one of his 7th grade students in the library.

Teachers are also already utilizing the new space. As soon as the library opened, English teacher Mr. Okello (picture above) brought his 7th graders to the library to practice their reading comprehension skills. He says the library’s setup allows the girls to help each other learn and work side-by-side. He also looks forward to seeing more books added to the shelves, which will encourage his students to read more for pleasure.

Several KCE students smile during their first trip to the library.

Several KCE students smile during their first trip to the library.

As shelves fill and time passes, we can’t wait to witness the positive impact the new library will have on our growing scholars and community.


Want to help us fill the new library’s shelves?
Make a gift to girls’ education today:

INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE GIRL 2016 CELEBRATION

Every year on October 11th, communities and organizations around the world celebrate the International Day of the Girl. In our community, parents and friends gathered at the school to celebrate with our girls. In addition to singing, dancing, and eating together to honor the day, we also asked our girls to complete the statement “I am a girl, I have the power too…” Here’s what they said:

“I am a girl; I have the power to be educated.”

“I am a girl; I have the power to fight for the rights of girls to be educated in society.”

“I am a girl; I have the power to be the President of Kenya.”

“I am a girl; I have the power to change my society.”

CLASS OF 2021 ENROLLMENT

On November 15th and 16th, hundreds of rising fourth grade girls came with their guardians to the Kakenya Center for Excellence boarding school for enrollment. The girls represented over a dozen schools and localities. The enrollment process involves an assessment test, interviews with the girls and their family, and gathering official information about the girl and her academic record. This year, 40 girls were selected based on need and academic ability to attend the school in January 2017. Click here to support their education! 

WE SHARE SOLAR

September is a busy month at the Kakenya Center for Excellence. In addition to the end of the August holiday, the new month also brings an exciting solar installation project to campus (see below) from our partners at We Care Solar (hyperlink https://wecaresolar.org/ ) , a San Francisco, CA-based organization that supports the We Share Solar Suitcase project.

Each suitcase, built by student volunteers in the U.S., provides easy-to-use, safe and durable solar electricity systems to schools and orphanages in rural communities without reliable power. Consistent, reliable energy is essential for our girls to study and socialize safely after dark. Before partnering with We Share Solar, our girls would often go hours or even days without lights in their dormitories, dining hall and classrooms. We are thrilled to welcome our new partners and this sustainable and dependable energy source to our campus!