Adolescent Girls Initiative sets girls on the path to economic empowerment in Wajir
By Hadija Abdullahi
Adolescent girls in Kenya especially the ones living in Northern Kenya face considerable risks and vulnerabilities that affect their education status, health and general wellbeing. In Wajir County for example, some of the factors that impact adolescent girls’ education include household poverty, parents’ lack of economic independence, limited income earning opportunities, and illiteracy.
Save the Children through the UKaid funded Adolescents Girls Initiative (AGI-K) project has been working with adolescent girls to equip them with skills that empower them to improve their families’ lives and that of their communities.
12 year old Rukia is a beneficiary of the AGI-K program; she studies at Machine-Ben primary school in Wajir County. Rukia has 10 siblings and eight of them are not in school. Since 2016, Rukia has been participating in weekly safe spaces sessions on health life skills and financial literacy training facilitated by a mentor supported by Save the Children.
“Through AGI-K, we were taught how to save money. I shared the information with my mother and we both started saving using a home bank provided by the programme,” says Rukia.
Fatuma, Rukia’s mother says she has been able to sustain her family and grow her income through home bank savings.
Story in the beneficiaries’ own words:
Rukia says: “I attend safe space sessions. We were taught about savings and then given a home bank. I took it home and shared with my mother. Since 2016-2017 we have saved up to Ksh 7,000. It is like a partnership between me and my mother; whatever I get from AGI-K incentive I usually save it, sometimes I get little money from my relatives and I save it. Every day I make sure I lock my home bank because you are not always sure you will find your money intact, it’s only me and my mom who have the key to that home bank.”
Her mother Fatuma says, “I run a small business at my home, I have a solar panel on top of my roof which I use to charge phone for people. For every phone I charge, I receive some money which I save in Rukia’s home bank, we keep our savings in that home bank and when it reaches a certain amount of money we decide what to do with it.”
“I bought two sheep for my family with my first savings at Ksh 1500 each, the sheep gave birth but unfortunately one died. Now I have three of them and these are now our family property. I am now planning to buy revision books with my savings so that I can do better in my exams,” says Rukia.
Rukia says she wants to be a role model for other girls in her community especially those attending safe space sessions and is very grateful to AGI-K Program. “Besides the school incentives, we receive school kits which are helpful to us because some things like sanitary towels are sometimes hard to get in the village.”
Farhiya, the mentor for Machine-Ben, safe space group says: “The safe spaces have empowered the girls with important life skills. Most of the girls like Rukia are confident and are performing well in class. Rukia is one of the top performing girls in the school and she always attends safe space sessions. I am happy that she shared the lessons with her mother and the family is supporting her.”
Save the Children through the DFID-funded AGI-K program is promoting the well-being of young adolescents aged 11-14 years in 79 villages in Wajir. By working with community members in these villages the AGI-K project seeks to support the communities through community conversation approach to identify key socio-cultural issues that affect adolescent girls in Wajir County.
The project has supported 2,250 girls to access both primary and secondary education through conditional cash transfers as incentive to the households, schools and girls to routinely attend school and transition to the next level of education. Moreover, about 1,831 girls in 40 villages attend weekly classes held in safe spaces where they are taught by a trained female community member i.e. mentor on various health and life skills topics as well as financial education. These interventions have ensured that the adolescent girls like Rukia Abass do not only stay longer in school, transition to the next level of education, gain health and financial knowledge to make independent decisions but are also protected against harmful socio-cultural practices that prevent them from fulfilling their dreams.
The Program is being implemented by a consortium led by Population Council in partnership with African Population Health and Research Centre (APHRC), Plan International, Save the Children and Itad. Save the Children is the implementing agency in Wajir whereas Plan International is the implementing partner in Kibera slums within Nairobi County. Population Council, APHRC and Itad are the research partners.