Kenya: How the private sector is supporting opportunities for girls' education
- Girls face many barriers in getting an education, including child marriage. In Kenya, 23% of girls are married before their 18th birthday and 4% are married before the age of 15.
- GPE brought together private sector partners Ecobank Foundation, Avanti Communications and the Rotary clubs in Kenya, as well as the government of Kenya, to address some of the challenges that affect girls’ access to education.
- The result is a dynamic partnership that is giving girls a chance of a brighter future.
This story was written in collaboration Avanti Communications, Ecobank Foundation, Rotary clubs in Kenya and the Ministry of Education of Kenya.
Addressing key barriers to gender equality
Although more girls than ever go to school today, 129 million girls worldwide are still denied an education. This is in large part due to the numerous barriers that girls face in getting an education, such as distance to school, cultural norms and practices, school-related gender-based violence and early or forced marriage.
In the past decade, Kenya has made great strides in expanding access to primary, secondary and tertiary education for girls, yet dropout rates are much higher in rural areas, particularly following school closures during the pandemic.
According to UNICEF, over 17 million children in Kenya are recovering from up to 9 months of lost learning due to COVID-19. Moreover, the latest research by the organization Girls Not Brides shows that 23% of Kenyan girls are married before their 18th birthday and 4% are married before the age of 15.
To move the needle on these important issues, GPE teamed up with private sector partners Ecobank Foundation, Avanti Communications and Rotary clubs in Kenya to find new and innovative solutions to this challenge.
Together they are helping the government of Kenya address key barriers to gender equality in education so that more girls have a chance of a brighter future and can make an impact in the lives of their families and communities.
Why educating girls matters
Educating girls generates huge dividends for economic prosperity, gender equality, climate resilience, public health, and lasting peace and stability. Just imagine: if every girl received 12 years of schooling, child marriage would plunge by two-thirds, and girls’ increased lifetime earnings would grow economies by as much as US$30 trillion!
Investing in girls' education can help break the cycle of poverty, rebuild communities and bring about lasting change. This was case for Selina Nkoile, GPE Youth Leader for Kenya, who believes that education was the key to unlocking her potential.
The Girls’ Education Awareness Program
To help more girls get a chance at education and a better life, GPE created the Girls’ Education Awareness Program.
The program builds on studies that show that information sharing and messaging that is contextually relevant can be effective in improving learning outcomes. It leverages business and foundation expertise in marketing, communications, advocacy and related areas to deliver context-sensitive messages to community leaders, girls and their families.
To address some of the challenges that affect girls’ access to education and forge new areas for collaboration, GPE brought together public and private sector partners—Ecobank Foundation, Avanti Communications, the Rotary clubs in Kenya, and the Kenyan government—which has proven to be a dynamic partnership.
This innovative initiative includes a series of events, targeted campaigns and social marketing drives that aim to increase awareness and help bring about change in the norms and behaviors that keep girls from school.
Breaking the bias
As part of the program, the Ecobank Foundation organized a webinar on the International Day of Girls on information and communications technology (ICT) as part of its ’Break the Bias’ series, aiming to empower young women and girls and encourage them to follow their education and careers in the fields of ICT, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Participants like software developer Bratipah Kioko, who attended the live screening, were inspired and encouraged to do more for their community.
“Thanks to initiatives like this we will definitely see the issue of the underrepresentation of women in ICT and STEM being addressed.”
The aim was to help raise awareness about the amazing potential for girls to lead change and to break stereotypes.
"I can be an agent of change,” said Sharon Wawira, who volunteered to take part in the program. “I can encourage other girls to take these courses, to pick up skills in tech without feeling discouraged.”
The event was part of Ecobank’s desire to play an active role in the empowerment of girls and young women. In addition to 100+ participants on Zoom, a group of young female leaders and members of the community viewed the livestream from the Ecobank offices in Kenya.
Similarly, GPE partner Avanti Communications champions girls’ education by supporting primary and secondary schools across Kenya.
As part of the program, Avanti is releasing a series of videos and blog posts commenting on education featuring Avanti staff, GPE youth leaders and various partner organizations.
The video was promoted via social media and company handles and was disseminated to Avanti-supported schools via tablets and WhatsApp groups, reaching over 125,000 users across multiple platforms.
Findings from Avanti’s research show that most girls want to go to secondary school, particularly when they have support from their parents.
The campaign will encourage them to find support, keep studying and know they are not alone.
The initial phase of the program is focusing on Kenya and will then expand to other African countries such as Ghana and Zimbabwe.
Why role models are so important
The Girls’ Education Awareness Program is also bringing together leaders and changemakers to encourage more girls in Kenya to stay in school. As part of the program, Collins Injera, a Kenyan rugby legend, went to visit Marble Quarry Primary School with a clear message in support of girls’ education.
The superstar is adamant about the importance of girls’ education for society.
The partnership with Injera is another example of the impressive impact that the private sector can have on girls’ education.
The power of communities
Community action is critical to creating any concrete movement on harmful social and cultural norms. This is where a partner like Rotary plays a powerful role. Members of Rotary are community leaders, who have been able to build trust, understanding and credibility with members of their communities.
Through their expansive network of volunteers, Rotary members are carrying out outreach campaigns, speaking to girls and their parents about the value of education in their lives and sensitizing young girls on menstrual hygiene and sanitation to ensure their safe and healthy participation in schools.
Safety is everyone’s responsibility, so the outreach campaigns also include communications on these topics with boys and their communities.
Bringing partners together
The program is a clear demonstration of what is possible when stakeholders across public, private, civil society and the youth work together, said Dr. Julius Jwan, principal secretary of Kenya’s Ministry of Education.
Thanks to Ecobank Foundation, Avanti and the Rotary clubs in Kenya, the program is playing an active part in the Ministry of Education’s drive to help more girls access education.
It’s a win-win for everyone. By empowering girls to make smart decisions when it comes to their education, the private sector is setting them up to make an economic impact in their communities in the future and is promoting a fairer society.