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Brighter futures in Kenya
The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is “connecting girls, inspiring futures.” Lillian and Elizabeth, two school girls in Nairobi, gave me an insight into what this means.
For Kenyan girls and women, the dawn of a new era – brought about by a new constitution that recognises equal rights – has made the many years of fighting for gender equality worth all the effort. The new constitution gives women more opportunities to participate effectively in decision-making and recognises their rights to inheritance and owning property and land.
Though times are changing in Kenya, many girls still struggle to go to school and parents tend to educate sons before their daughters. So, it is inspiring to learn that some girls are getting the opportunity to pursue their education.
Pursuing a brighter future
Despite being from Mathare slum in Nairobi, Lillian and Elizabeth are two young girls beating all the odds to get an education. They are pupils at Future Kids Academy in the heart of Mathare slum and they have big dreams. Lillian, who is 15, wants to be a journalist and 13-year-old Elizabeth wants to be a doctor. For most girls living in the slums, it is expected that they get married as soon as they turn 17 or 18, but Lillian and Elizabeth are adamant that getting married young is not for them. Lillian says:
I have to get a good education and I want a good career before I can even think of marriage, maybe I’ll be 30 before I’m married!
They both thank their parents who encourage them to attend school and forge a life for themselves. Lillian is brought up by a single mother who is a business woman. Her mother encourages her to pursue her dreams. Unlike other girls in their neighbourhood, both Lillian and Elizabeth only help with housework at the weekends and have time in the evenings for their homework and study.
Inspiring role models
With this kind of ambition and determination, the girls will achieve their dreams. They are not just leaders of tomorrow, but today they stand out as role models for the younger girls in their school and community. In keeping with this year’s theme, these girls are already connected and they have the keys to open doors to a brighter future.