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(Maendeleo Ya Wanawake Organization, The Academy for
Educational Development and the Johns
Hopkins University Center for Communication Programs)
last updated 5/24/99
In most developing countries, girls do not receive the same educational opportunities as boys. Even when given the opportunity to be educated, the girls typically face formidable barriers to the completion of their studies. For example, while virtually all girls in Kenya are initially enrolled in primary school, approximately 65% of them drop out before completing Standard 8 (source: Forum for African Women Educationalists). Many of the barriers that girls face in striving to stay in school are either directly or indirectly related to reproductive health, sexual behavior, and maturation. Some of the causes of school dropout in Kenya include early marriage, pregnancy, lack of gender appropriate facilities in schools (such as latrines), low self-esteem, lack of money, harassment by male teachers and fellow students, and the low value placed on the education of girls by their parents and society in general.
In response to these barriers, the Academy for Educational Development (AED) initiated a program under the USAID-funded Population Communication Services (PCS) Project), through the Johns Hopkins University Center for Communication Programs. The main goal of the project is to reduce the reproductive health barriers to primary school completion among girls. The principal executing agency is Maendeleo Ya Wanawake (MYWO), and the project currently operates in a total of 31 communities in the following districts: Bungoma, Koibatek, Kilifi, Kuria, and in the Nairobi slums.
From May to October 1998, MYWO field workers worked in the communities to facilitate PLA activities with school children, parents and teachers. The PLA activities were designed to raise awareness of the relationship between reproductive health and primary school dropout and to generate ideas for community-based interventions.
In November 1998, the field workers came back together to share what they had learned. The PLA techniques revealed that there were many causes of school dropout, but the two most frequently cited were lack of guidance and counseling, and poverty. In order to respond to these problems, the following activities are being implemented this year:
* Girls' clubs: With help from a small seed grant, each primary school has created a club for girls, ages 10 years and older. The goals of the clubs are to: 1) provide the girls with reproductive health guidance and counseling; and 2) give the girls an opportunity to earn educational incentives and money for small school expenses through income generating activities.
* Comic book: MYWO is developing a comic book focusing on girls' education and reproductive health issues, which will be distributed in primary schools in the focus districts. Teachers will use it as a basis for discussions about these issues, and they will also work with students to create dramas from the comic book, for presentation at both the school and community levels.
* Parental role models: Adult role models have been recruited to sensitize parents about the value of girls' education and the need to give their daughters guidance about reproductive health issues. The role models also work with the girls.
* National festivals: MYWO has created new themes focusing on girls' education and reproductive health for the National Music Festival, which takes place every year in August. The music festival solicits original song entries from primary and secondary school choirs, and MYWO will award trophies for the best songs related to the project theme at the provincial and national levels.
The project is also working with the Family Planning Association of Kenya to integrate girls' education issues into the popular Youth Variety Show, and it has raised the public awareness about girls' education issues through several newspaper and magazine articles.
Signs of success
An evaluation of the first year's activities, conducted in March 1999, showed that the PLA activities have sparked new dialogues about girls' education and motivated communities to address problems in locally appropriate ways. One community has begun demanding the enforcement of a district law against early marriage, while in another community parents have started their own savings scheme to help girls. There were also reports of girls who have been allowed to continue their studies instead of being married off, and of girls adopting more positive attitudes towards school and their futures.
The project actively seeks to collaborate with other organizations to increase its effectiveness and is currently seeking additional financial support. Interested organizations are welcome to contact any of the project partners:
P.O. Box 44412
P.O. Box 53727
In the USA
1825 Connecticut Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20009
Chief of the Africa Division