each girl faces a variety of complex challenges in her journey to learn, grow, and lead.
In addition to challenges facing the whole community, like poverty, disease, and poor health care, adolescent girls face a variety of specific barriers to achieving her full potential, including female genital mutilation (FGM), child marriages, and higher levels of sexual violence.
Click the bubbles below to learn more about each of the challenges facing our girls every day.
In Kenya, poverty is often highly concentrated in rural areas, where the poverty line rests at $0.68 a day. In addition to a nationally unemployment rate of over 40%, Kenya also has one of the fastest growing populations in the world, which has tripled between 1980 and the present. Without adequate resources and infrastructure, thousands of underserved, rural children struggle with the consequences of extreme poverty every day, including a lack of food, clean water and health care.
Just as in communities across the globe, gender inequality pervades communities across Kenya. Women and girls in the areas we serve have been subjugated to oppression, human rights abuses, and suffer an overwhelming share of family responsibilities. From farming to housework, women in Kenya do a majority of the labor in rural areas for little or no pay. In fact, of all Kenyans receiving a paid salary, just 29% are women. Other women’s rights abuses are also continually perpetuated, including harmful inheritance and “cleansing” practices.
LACK OF EDUCATION
More than 62 million girls worldwide who should be in primary or lower secondary school are not. Lack of educational opportunities continues to be a serious issue in Kenya. In our communities, only 17% of women have completed primary school and just 10% finished secondary school. If current rates persist, the world’s poorest girls will not begin reaching the same levels of education as wealthy children and poor boys until 2086.
HARMFUL CULTURAL PRACTICES
Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting (FGM/C): At least 200 million women and girls worldwide have undergone FGM/C. In the Maasai communities in which we work, almost 80% of all women have been cut. FGM/C is a devastating and sometimes fatal practice that involves the partial or complete removal of the clitoris, often linked to a girl’s coming of age. FGM/C leads to a wide range of physical and psychological complications, including higher rates of maternal mortality and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Child, Early and Forced Marriage: 1 in 3 girls in the developing world is married before the age of 18, 1 in 9 is married by the age of 15. In Kenya, 40% of girls are married before their 18th birthday, but the number is much higher in the rural communities we serve. In international and human rights law, child marriage is widely understood to mean any marriage involving at least one person under the age of 18. Though boys are also victims of child marriage, the practice overwhelmingly affects girls. Moreover, the less education a girl has received, the more likely it is that she will marry young.
At the national level, shortages of health professionals and resources limit the availability of quality health care. In rural communities, the situation is even worse. High rates of sexually transmitted infections, water-borne diseases, and malaria affect millions each year. HIV/AIDs is the leading cause of death for Kenyans, killing more than 80,000 each year and leaving approximately 1.2 million children deprived of one or both parents.
Girls in the rural communities we serve face many dangerous situations each day. Collecting water, walking to school, and even staying with family members can all lead to scenarios in which a girl’s safety is at risk. Though rarely talked about, rape, sexual assault, and early pregnancy are extremely common and can often lead to a girl’s removal from school.