Ebla Maalim – An Adolescent Peer Educator
By Muktar Muhumed
Ebla Maalim – An Adolescent Peer Educator
Ebla Maalim, 15, escaped from early marriage in 2014 after her father tried to force her into marriage while still in primary school. With the help of her mother, Area chief and school head teacher she managed to get back to Sarif primary school. One year later Save the Children in conjunction with Population Council started implementing Adolescent Girls Initiative Kenya (AGI-K) project in her village and Ebla being eligible, got enrolled to the project. Through the AGI-K project she joined a safe space where together with other girls of her age was taught by a trained female mentor on several health and life skills topics among them female genital mutilation, early and forced marriage, sexual and reproductive health. Based on her experience and learning from the safe spaces, Ebla felt empowered and begun advocating for girls’ right in her community through sensitising her peer adolescent girls on the harmful effects of early marriage. With the support of teachers in her school, she mobilises and counsels girls of her age group every Thursday evening between 4.30pm and 5.15 pm on the importance of delaying marriage, resisting forced marriages, and the need to focus on education.
Story in the beneficiaries own words:
Ebla has the desire to counsel the teenage girls in her village with the aim of ensuring that all girls of her age who are vulnerable to early and forced marriages are protected against harmful cultural practice. She says she will continue with her sensitisation sessions till many girls are liberated and fully enjoy their rights.
“waxan raba inan nuqdo tii gabadhaha wax ushegto wayo xanunkeda aniga arke waxana filaya iney kuwabadan ilaqaban ama kudhici donta arintas fosha xun. Tegyera badan aan hasta xaga gabadha wax nabarto, macaliminta iyo hoyadey wana wada hadii ilah yirahdo”
(I want to be the one who informs girls because I saw the pain forced marriage involves and I think many girls have the same experience as me or might even be going through painful experiences. I have full support from my mentor, teachers and my mother and I will continue advocating and informing girls to resist early marriages if all goes well.’’)
Ebla will inspire many girls in her community by addressing in her own small way violence against teenage girls that are forced to abandon their education dreams because of early marriages. Her efforts of sensitising girls at school is acknowledged and appreciated by Sarif school administration.
“it’s something to be happy with when a young lady lectures her own school mates about gender violence issues that are rampant these days in the communities. This would be a breakthrough achievement for Save the Children’s project as the intended change in attitude will be realized.” Says the school head teacher Mr. Sugal Farah.
The school administration sets aside 40 minutes on a weekly basis on Thursdays after classes for Ebla to engage with her adolescent peers.
Hawa Noor, her mother is determined to keep her daughter in school and was totally against the father’s decision of marrying her off. She says:
“Dadka iskumid maaho, kuwa jecel iney gabdhaha iguuriyan ayago yar kuwana waa aniga oo kale oo jecel iney gabdhaha wax bartan oo mustaqbal yeshan, halima waxan kudathali iney wax barato”
(“People are different, there are those who marry off their children at a young age while there are those like me who want their girls to learn and have a bright future, I will make sure Ebla gets educated.”)
Save the Children through the DFID-funded AGI-K program is promoting the well-being of young adolescents of ages 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. Additionally, the project has supported about 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 girls do not only stay longer in school, transition to the next level of education, gain health and financial knowledge to make independent decisions but also are protected against harmful socio-cultural practices that prevent them from realizing their full potential as they transition from adolescence to adulthood.
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 while Plan International is the implementing partner in Kibera slums within Nairobi County whereas Population Council, APHRC and Itad are the research partners.