EMPOWERING THE GIRL CHILD

The Integrated Development Africa Programmes (IDAP) has been championing against child marriage in Kenya for more than a decade now. We have done this in areas where poverty is acute, and many parents feel that giving a daughter in marriage will reduce family expenses, or even temporarily increase their income in cases where a bride’s parents are paid a bride price. We have laid down programmes on empowering adolescent girls in Nyanza to advocate for the right of girls in the region. The organization also works alongside poor women who are trained to become self-sufficient by providing them with proper resources, thereby reducing the problem of poverty to create a permanent social change.

 

Programmes focus 

Gender-based violence (GBV) - Girls’ transition into puberty and adolescence increases their vulnerability to GBV—including physical, emotional, and psychological violence, rape, and other forms of sexual abuse—with grave and enduring impacts on their health and well-being. Nearly half of all sexual assaults are committed against girls younger than 16 years of age every year. Young girls married at early age are more vulnerable to violence from husbands and families, and are unlikely to remain in school.

 

Child, early, and forced marriage (CEFM)

Families marry girls before the age of 18 for a number of reasons, including social beliefs about the appropriate age of marriage for girls; fears that older girls will not find spouses; poor quality of schooling; concerns about the risks of sexual violence girls face in school and on their way to school; the socioeconomic needs of a girl’s household; and concerns about premarital sexual behaviour that could result in pregnancy outside of marriage, HIV/AIDS, and perceived dishonor to the family.

This practice is often rooted in patriarchal beliefs that value girls less and confine them to traditional roles of motherhood and domestic labor. Marrying adolescent girls is a human rights abuse that contributes to economic hardship and leads to under-investment in girls’ educational and health care needs.

Child, early, and forced marriage (CEFM) undermines economic productivity, threatens sustainable growth and development, and fosters conditions that enable or exacerbate violence and insecurity, including domestic violence. It produces devastating repercussions for a girl’s life, effectively ending her childhood. Early marriage forces a girl into adulthood and motherhood before she is physically and mentally mature, and before she completes her education, limiting her future options, depriving her of the chance to reach her full potential, and preventing her from contributing fully to her family and community.

 

Early pregnancy

Young brides face great pressure to bear children as quickly as possible to prove their fertility. Approximately 16 million adolescent girls aged 15-19 years old give birth each year, comprising about 11 percent of all births globally. Early pregnancy and childbirth have severe consequences for adolescent girls as compared to young women, including an increased risk of miscarriage and complications at birth, obstetric fistula, and death. Overall rates of maternal mortality remains a leading cause of death among girls aged 15-19 years. In general, majority of maternal deaths are preventable when women have access to quality antenatal and postnatal care, and safe delivery attended by skilled personnel, backed by emergency obstetric care. However, adolescent girls do not always have access to these forms of care or information about the importance of these services, especially when they are married at an early age and have become socially isolated within their husbands’ households. In addition to the harm placed on adolescent mothers, their children also face numerous hardships. The children of young mothers have higher rates of infant mortality and malnutrition, and are less likely to be educated than children born to mothers older than 18 years of age.

 

HIV/AIDS

HIV/AIDS affects adolescent girls and young women beginning in adolescence and continuing into early adulthood. Despite significant progress in the global HIV response over the past twenty years, there are approximately 400,000 new HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women (10–24) globally every year, and girls and young women account for 71 percent of new HIV infections among adolescents in Western Kenya. This is because adolescent girls are at risk by early and repeated pregnancies, in which HIV results in the death of the mother.

Integrated Development Africa Programme (IDAP) is currently piloting on major programs to empower and invest in adolescent girls, particularly through education, benefits not only girls and their families, but entire communities and economies. Girls’ attendance in formal school during adolescence is correlated with later marriage, later childbearing, decreased fertility rates, lower rates of HIV/AIDS and other reproductive morbidities, fewer hours of domestic work, and greater gender equality. Importantly, these benefits accrue to the next generation. Empowered, educated, healthy, and safe adolescent girls possess a better complement of tools to make the transition into adulthood and engage productively in the economy as adults.

Programmes component includes:

  •  Advocacy against Child marriage
  •  Girls Mentorship programs
  •  Enlightening the girl child about HIV and AIDS
  •  Education and leadership training programmes for girls
  •  Computer literacy training for girls.
  •  To build latrines for girls in schools.

Due to a lack of appropriate infrastructure and sanitary facilities at schools, and fear of stigmatization, adolescent girls may also stay home during menstruation, which can result in them missing several days of classes per month and falling behind. IDAP is championing for the promotion of educational activities and development of education facilities at all levels (basic, secondary and tertiary levels, with emphasis on the Girl Child)

 

 What it will take to end the vice

IDAP is working with other stakeholders to develop and implement a comprehensive and well-resourced action plan to end child marriage in Kenya. These actions will be coalesced into the national action plan that will focus on five areas namely: Empower girls; mobilization of families and communities; provide adequate facilities; good policies; and civil registration.

 

Empower girls

To enable girls to value themselves, to know and exercise their rights, to develop skills to support their own life plans and to have opportunities to connect with their peers and support one another. This can be achieved through programmes that equip them with training, skills, information, as well as the provision of safe spaces and support networks.

 

Mobilization of families and communities

To act as agents of change, by creating awareness of the harmful impact of child marriage, and of alternative roles for girls and women, so that families and communities prefer not to marry their daughters as children and so that they themselves take part in efforts to end child marriage.

  

Provide adequate facilities

Health, education, justice and other services, to remove the structural barriers that push girls into child marriage and prevent them from accessing support within marriage. These services range from providing adolescent-friendly health services, to ensuring that schools are accessible and child friendly, and to providing safe spaces and other support services for married girls.

 

Good policies

Provide an enabling legal and policy framework, including enforcement of the legislation that sets 18 as the minimum age for marriage and remove any legal loopholes related to parental consent or customary laws. Policies must be in place which protect women and girls’ rights, including property rights, access to remedies, support for those wishing to leave a marriage, protection from violence, and access to health services.

 

Civil registration

Systems which record births and marriages are also important. Government policy frameworks must define roles and dedicate resources across relevant ministries to expand opportunities for girls at risk and to support married girls.

 

Young girls reading inside the Siaya Community Library, which was initiated by the Integrated Development
Africa Programme (IDAP). IDAP is currently piloting on major programmes to empower and invest in adolescent
girls, particularly through education.

 

Teenage girls in discussion during one of the outreach programmes regularly conducted by the Integrated Development Africa
Programme (IDAP). At IDAP, we know that early pregnancy and childbirth have severe consequences
for adolescent girls as compared to young women.
 

 

“What is good to know is difficult to learn” A Greek Proverb

With the issue of basic education now being adequately addressed by the Kenya Government, attention is currently turning to the secondary and post-secondary school education systems.

Most secondary schools and higher education institutions suffer from a lack of funding and a lack of facilities, and this is still a major handicap in the government's goal of providing competitive and quality education. This has led to a situation where regions endowed with better-equipped public secondary schools or high cost private academies tend to excel in national examinations by comparison with secondary schools in poor regions. These regional disparities are more pronounced in some areas like Nyanza, which is now lagging far behind. 

The education programme IDAP is pursuing, is an integrated system comprising of the following component:

i.Support basic education and development in Siaya County and the entire Nyanza region in Western part of Kenya.

ii.Pursue ways of mobilizing resources to build class rooms in schools in Alego, Ugunja, Ugenya and Gem sub-counties in Siaya County. These are some of the poorest locations in Siaya County.

iii.Seek to fuel passion for reading, personal growth and learning through opening up and supporting of community libraries within the region.

Children in a classroom taking basic lessons. This is a common phenomenon in many areas where Integrated
Development Africa Programme (IDAP) operates.

  

Integrated Development Africa Programme’s (IDAP) outreach programmes implemented by the Siaya
Community Library have been received well in all schools they we visit. This was one of the programmes at
a primary in Ugunja Constituency in Siaya County.

 

The Siaya Community Library (SCL)

Expanding minds, empowering people, and enriching community

The Siaya Community Library is a community project initiated by the Integrated Development Africa Programme (IDAP). The Library is registered as a community based organization by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Development. This project was established in the pursuit of support to education programs, including adult literacy and rural schools to provide a center for community education and cultural activities. 

 The Library runs a wide range of services for the community, and makes use of a two-way information flow so that external information and local knowledge is shared. Its main services comprise providing reading materials, including formal educational resources and locally produced information pamphlets on agriculture, health and literacy. The Siaya Community Library carries a wide variety of resources for adults: The latest bestsellers, hardcover and paperback books, large print books, newspapers, magazines, audio books, DVDs and compact discs. It also offers a range of services and items for loan to teens such as novels and curriculum books. It provides access to information mainly through books and is now embracing information technology through electronic book readers. 

The main beneficiaries of the library services are multicultural, occupational, civic and other community groups. The Library patrons include university students, working professionals, women and women groups, youths in and out of school, as well as marginalized groups and farmers in Siaya County. It, however, plans to offer a wide range of children's activities for parents, including caregivers and activities for young children during term period and school holidays.

Moving forward, the Siaya Community Library strives to ensure that its collections remain forward-looking, diverse in breadth and form, open to browsing, and of world-renowned quality. Through promotion, the Library will continuously make people aware of the resources available to them, and through innovation, make access to these resources easier. It will also create an integrated, seamless web of information to further streamline access. To serve future users, the Library preserves information across all formats and ensures effective storage and delivery systems. 

Plans are in place to ensure that the Library’s physical and virtual spaces respond to the changing habits of users to enrich the community experience and to multiply the ways in which people can pursue inquiry. The Library’s collaboration with expanding circles of partners like American Friends of Kenya (AFK), the County Government of Siaya, Kenya Literature Bureau (KLB), Jomo Kenyatta Foundation Publishers (K) LTD, Phoenix Publishers (K) LTD, the Ministry of Culture, Ministry Gender & Social Development, Rotary Club-San Antonio, and Global Communications Network among others has yielded a unified access that broadens knowledge, and enhanced services. 

 

Front view and entrance of the new Siaya Community Library (SCL) Complex. The building was constructed with
support of the World Bank. Notice how friendly access is to our disabled brothers and sisters who
cannot use stairs.

  

Personal growth: Primary School Children from Siaya Township who visited the Siaya Community Library’s
old building for an introductory course on the use of e-book readers. The old library space was graciously donated by
the County Government of Siaya as a temporary place to kick-off the project. The children are seen displaying the e-reader
devises. Building human capacity that will enable the county to thrive is at the centre
of our mission.

 

Dr. Sarah Obama addressing students at the Senator Barack Obama Mixed Secondary School in Alego, Kogelo during the
official launch of Mama Sarah Obama Community Library, an offshoot of the Siaya Community Library. She was the chief guest
at the launch. Dr. Sarah Obama is also the patron of the library. 

  

Young boys and girls displaying electronic devises during the launch of e-readers at Mama Sarah Obama
Community Library in Alego-Kogelo, Siaya County where 50 pieces of these devises were donated
to the library by World Reader International. 

  

Siaya Community Library’s outreach programme at Barding Boys Secondary school to encourage high
school students to adopt the use of electronic readers in their curriculum for access to more reading materials
through e-books. The devise can store more than 3000 books for different subjects. The students
were elated with this programme and continue flocking the library to use these devise.  

 

Younger library patrons make do with papyrus mats as they join others in the quest for knowledge at
the Siaya Community Library. Many school going children flock the Library during school holidays, and
others still make use of their evenings to do some studies and homework in the Library before
heading home. Their testimonials about the facility are marvelous (available separately).    
 

  

 Improving information access: Kids sharing e-book readers to access varied collections for their readings in the library.
The Siaya Community Library has partnered with the World Reader International to make these devises
available to library patrons. One devise can store as many as 2,500 books that can be easily accessed.