Empowering the Girl-Child: School Based Girls' Forums
In the districts that EMACK works, the girl-child has disproportionately lower attendance, retention and performance in primary school.
To better understand the root causes of this situation, EMACK conducted a
study in 2006 with pupils of primary schools in Coast and North Eastern
Province. In recognition that pupils were not getting information or even discussing issues of growing up or sexual maturation, EMACK included an investigation on the impact of these issues on pupils’ educational attainment.
The study revealed that both girls and boys were having difficulties coping with issues of growing up and sexual maturation and that these difficulties were having a negative impact on their education. Unfortunately, the girl-child was consistently and disproportionately disadvantaged due to the following factors:
- Lack of accurate information on how to deal with the growing up process;
- Unaffordable menstrual protection/sanitary wear;
- Lack of sanitation facilities in schools;
- Heavy domestic workloads;
- Early marriages and pregnancies, and;
- Negative societal attitudes towards the importance of educating the girl child.
In 2006, to address these obstacles, EMACK together with Pastoralist Girls Initiative (PGI), initiated 10 school based Girls’ Forums in Garissa District of North Eastern Province.
The Girls’ Forums were designed to specifically target girls and serve as a platform for them to share their experiences, exchange ideas, mentor one another, create awareness and address issues affecting their education.
The pilot Girl’s Forum broke the silence on challenges faced by girls in managing the growing up process and succeeded in getting together parents, teachers, and School Management Committees to discuss and agree on solutions to the challenges. Building on this success, EMACK has begun supporting the establishment of Girls’ Forums in over 220 schools, in all the districts that it works.
The objective of the school-based Girl’s Forum is to promote girls' enrollment, retention, completion, performance, and active participation in school by encouraging girls to identify and address the unique problems and needs that affect their education.
This overarching objective is supported by four sub-objectives:
• Enable girls to identify and address socio-cultural factors affecting their access, retention, completion, and performance;
• Promote girl to girl mentoring in technical subjects such as math and sciences, in order to improve their performance in these subjects;
• Equip girls with appropriate life skills that will help them manage healthrelated challenges and other emerging issues; and,
• Encourage girls to articulate and communicate their messages to a wider audience with a view to influence negative social-cultural practices.
Peer to Peer Mentoring
Girls become mentors to each other. In every Girls’ Forum there are student “officials” who form what is called the “active team”. These are girls who are chosen amongst their peers and are trained by EMACK, and implementing partners, on strategies for improving their academic performance, leadership, and issues related to the growing up and maturation process. The “active teams” then become the leaders of the Girls’ Forums at their school and mentors to their peers. They learn and share with each other through discussions, demonstrations, and poems, and they become a support system that girls can turn to when they are embarrassed, orconfused, or need help.
EMACK supports each Girls’ Forum with an Emergency Kit containing sanitary towels, underwear, a sewing kit, khangas and laundry items for girls to use during emergency cases in school. The kit is also used to educate community members on essential items for managing the girls’ growing up process.
Role Modeling and Motivational Talks
Female role models from within the girls’ community are invited to deliver motivational talks and serve as real life examples of the potential of women to overcome challenges and excel in a variety of professions.
Girls are encouraged and supported to invite expert guest speakers to come to the Girls’ Forum and provide information on specific areas of concern, such as HIV/AIDS, nutrition, and other health related issues affecting girls education.
Awareness Creation and Outreach Programmes
EMACK works with girls and other members of the school community, including parents, to promote awareness on child rights, the importance of educating girls and other issues affecting girls' education.
Lobbying and Advocacy
Working towards girl friendly school environments, including gender friendly toilets, provision of sanitary towels, and posting of female teachers to serve as role models.
Achievements and Outcomes
• To date, EMACK has established a total of 115 school-based girls forums among target schools in Coast and North Eastern Provinces.
• The project has trained over 200 girls and supported 55 schools with Emergency Kits.
• Girls’ Forum members at Sosoni Primary School started a Mathematics and Science club for girls.
• At Kundeni Primary School, Girls’ Forum members initiated a school farm and proceeds will be used to purchase sanitary towels for needy girls.