• It is important to note that girls especially in the rural marginalized areas have been the most affected by the secondary impacts of the pandemic.
• Regrettably, very few of them have reported the cases due to lack of accessible and supportive social structures, and inadequate information on their rights as victims.
Aren’t you concerned that some mixed schools might admit back boys only just because our girls have either been married off early or dropped out of school due to the ripple effects of the Covid-19 pandemic?
I’m writing this under an extreme state of worry.
My biggest concern is how the nation will forge forward while the majority of its adolescent girls are still being stitched under the rising shackles of harmful cultural practices, early pregnancy, gender inequality, and gender-based violence.
Guilt should push your anger to a breaking point, right?
Statistically, one in three Kenyan females has experienced sexual violence before attaining the age of 18 according to the Kenya Violence against Children Study 2010.
Ever since Covid-19 paid us a not so courteous visit, the county has reported worrying trends of increased teen pregnancies which ideally correlates to a high rate of defilement cases amongst the school going girls.
On the contrary, the government is yet to disaggregate the data of the perpetrators so that we can have a clear picture of the reality in our counties.
Own up the mess
Who exactly has been violating these girls? Is it the adolescent boys? Older men? Men in positions of power? Fathers? Uncles?
Viable solutions would only make sense if we can address the elephant in the room which is reporting and conviction of the perpetrators.
The ongoing silence on this matter is thunderous. Schools used to be safe havens for the majority of our girls.
However, the pandemic rendered this impractical hence providing a conducive environment for perpetrators of gender-based violence to have a field day.
It is important to note that girls especially in the rural marginalized areas have been the most affected by the secondary impacts of the pandemic due to the pre-existing harmful social norms that characterize their daily lives.
Regrettably, very few of them have reported the cases due to lack of accessible and supportive social structures, and inadequate information on their rights as victims.
To be honest, the pandemic is having a tremendous effect on learning where education is already not a priority specifically for girls.
As we commemorate the International Day of the Girl Child themed; "My voice, our equal future”, it is important for us to go back to the drawing board and have rich conversations on how we can salvage the situation before it gets out of hand.
Importantly, there is a need that as government and other stakeholders develop post-Covid-19 strategic plans for reopening schools, they should take into account the needs of girls with a bias on the girls from rural areas.
This can be truly fruitful if we fully involve the girls for the girls.
In addition, real-time psychosocial support and counselling should be amongst the mandatory care package as they go back to schools.
Our biggest challenge as a county has been on the implementation of great ideas.
We have some of the best recommendations and policies but only practical on papers.
Can we please stop designing programs for girls by not involving them?
Girls’ voices matter in decision-making processes. Inclusivity is one of the key tools when it comes to social development and therefore, this call for more consultation and collaboration between the government and stakeholders involved in girls’ empowerment initiatives.
For instance, Dandelion Africa is a grassroots organization that has been implementing Girls for Leaders programs for the last five years that have seen primary to secondary school transition average increase from 57 per cent in 2015 to 98 per cent in 2019.
However, we are concerned that at the end of 2021, we might go a step backwards unless collectively we act now.
We cannot afford to continue with the assumption that everything will be fine.
Things are not fine and the better we own it, the earlier we will manage the inevitable.
Although the efforts being made are commendable to some extent, there is a need for more sustainable and holistic measures that go beyond accessing education to address the obstacles encountered by girls in accessing quality education and transiting from one level of education to the next.
Launched in 2012 by the United Nations General Assembly, International Day of the Girl Child aims to support girls’ empowerment and realization of their human rights while also highlighting the challenges facing girls globally which include: lack of access to quality education, sexual reproductive health services, and majorly gender-based violence which has become a growing concern especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ruth Nderitu is the Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, Dandelion Africa.