I was partly raised in Nairobi and the rural area in Nyanza region. Growing up, I was an inquisitive girl and I loved engaging in various activities. With time, I slowly realized that the playmates I had over the years grew apart, boys and girls began to play separately and duties were also assigned differently. In the village, gender roles are part of socializing children into cultural norms. As a teenager, I started to become aware of challenges with gender attitudes and now as an adult, I note that many of the challenges still exist.
Lack of access to education, early marriages, domestic violence, and land and property rights are examples of issues girls in Kenya face as a result of gender inequality. Gender is a sensitive matter in our context as most gender norms and stereotypes are deeply rooted in culture and religious affiliations that people subscribe to. There is a need to discuss all these issues at different levels so we can understand how to support all children to thrive in life. Both boys and girls deserve a fair chance in life where they can fulfill their potential and achieve their dreams.
Big Picture Learning Kenya partnered with Girl Rising and initiated a program at Divine Mercy School to work with high school students. Girl Rising works with local partners by providing customized tools and curricula to build confidence and agency in girls and to change attitudes and social norms so that entire communities stand up for girls and against gender discrimination. We are excited for this new opportunity and we cannot wait to launch the program in 2021 when schools re-open. Our team was ready to hit the ground running this year until the pandemic hit and we had to shift our plans!
Our program aims to create a more gender-responsive and fair educational environment by addressing prevalent gender stereotypes and disparities by engaging with teachers and students and empowering them to drive change in their schools and communities.
Through our training, we are going to work with both boys and girls as we take a deep dive in discussing challenges at school and in the community. It was important for us to shape this program and help our community understand that discussions on gender should not only involve girls but boys as well. Our young boys are part of the society as well and they will eventually grow and be fathers, uncles, and older brothers. With this in mind, they cannot be left behind. They will all be advocates and extend these discussions among their peers.
As a Girl Rising facilitator, I hope to support our students to develop effective gender-responsive behaviors. A long term strategy will be to set up a Girl Rising school club to ensure the students can continue with to lead these sessions in years to come and learn from and with their peers. This will make sure there is continuity in awareness and the students will continue to support each other’s success. In the long run, there will be a generation that will challenge gender norms, create awareness around gender, find ways to create equity and thrive in life!
By Lorraine Apondi – Program Officer