Written by Susan Dobkins, Co-Director and Joseph Akure, Programs Officer
October 11 marks the International Day of the Girl, one of the days nearest and dearest to our hearts here at Vista Hermosa Foundation. Since the UN designated this day in 2012, it has aimed to highlight and address the unique needs and challenges that girls face, while promoting girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights.
This year’s UN theme to mark the occasion is “Invest in Girls’ Rights: Our Leadership, Our Well-being.” From the UN website: “At a time when we are seeing a range of movements and actions to curtail girls’ and women’s rights and roll back progress on gender equality, we see particularly harsh impacts on girls. From maternal health care and parenting support for adolescent mothers, to digital and life skills training; from comprehensive sexuality education to survivor support services and violence prevention programs; there is an urgent need for increased attention and resourcing for the key areas that enable girls to realize their rights and achieve their full potential…Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, 100 million girls were at risk of child marriage in the next decade. And now over the next ten years, up to 10 million more girls worldwide will be at risk of marrying as children because of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Many of our grant partners around the world contribute to this work, addressing a range of issues affecting the well-being of girls—from early marriage and pregnancy, to schooling, to human trafficking and female genital mutilation (FGM). Our partners in Kenya are collaborating with communities to protect girls from these harmful practices. Vista Hermosa Foundation partner Jitokeze Wamama Wafrika in West Pokot is supporting girls who have suffered these practices, giving them a second chance to rebuild their lives. Depending on the age of the girl, JWW offers the choice of re-enrolling in school or enrolling in their vocational training programs–tailoring and agriculture.
One such girl is Christine from Morpus Ward in West Pokot County. Her parents never enrolled Christine in school because girls are used for dowry in their pastoralist community. At the age of 12, she was married off to an alcoholicman who neglected her and became abusive. The stress of the abuse which continued after she gave birth to a daughter was too much; she moved back home with her mother but had to fend for herself and her baby. She came to Jitokeze through a friend and is proud that she is learning how to read and write and to design and make clothing. She aims to use the skills she is learning to help other girls like herself, creating a cycle of empowerment instead of poverty. She says that participating in the program ‘has made me start valuing myself again.’ You can read more about Christine and other girls that Jitokeze serves on their website.
We are proud of the partnerships we’ve cultivated over the years that contribute to girls’ empowerment in Kenya and elsewhere. How are you lifting up and celebrating girls in your community?