Stories of Change

Girls outside their dormitory, constructed through the CWS School Safe Zones program.

Empowering girls, fighting teen pregnancy in Kenya

Joan just took her Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exams at Chepakul Primary school. She’s 16, and the fifth of eight children in her family. And today, she’s a star student.

Not only did she take her exams, but she passed. Of the 19 students who sat for the exams at her school, she received the second-highest score. “I was so happy when I received the results that I had scored 312 of the total 500 marks. The exams were tough, but I had encouraged myself that I had to make it,” she said. “I think the confidence I had is what made me score this high. I’d hoped I would score more than this, but I am satisfied [with my results] and will put more efforts in once I join secondary [school].”

Joan has set her sights on achieving great things. She dreams of attending one of the best secondary schools around, and then she wants to qualify to attend university and pursue a degree in nursing. “I want to score high grades to achieve my dream of becoming a nurse,” she says.

You’ve already helped Joan and the other girls at her school pursue their dreams. Through the CWS School Safe Zones program, you’re reaching students at 10 schools in Kenya – and especially the girls, who are particularly vulnerable to dropping out – to help them stay in school. You’ve helped construct dormitories so that girls have a safe space to live and study without long and often dangerous walks to and from school. You’ve also helped construct private, sanitary bathrooms that girls can use safely and with dignity. You’ve helped build classrooms and fence schoolyards. You’ve filled those classrooms with desks. You’ve made sure that students have uniforms to wear, games to play and supplies to learn with. And you’ve made sure that girls have supplies to deal with their periods when they get them.

For the girls in this area, this program can be a game changer. Drastic inequality exists in this male-dominated society, so girls are up against a whole range of factors that can hold them back. They often have less of a chance than boys to go to school in the first place, since their family might keep them at home for chores or to care for siblings. And for older girls, early marriage or teen pregnancy threaten to cut their education short. Sadly, teen pregnancy is on the rise in the area. When a girl gets pregnant, her risk of early marriage and domestic violence – among other perils – increase. And girls are often powerless to fight for their education in the face of societal pressures.

You have been on the front line of addressing teen pregnancy and other manifestations of gender inequality in the area. Through the CWS School Safe Zones program, you’re breaking down the barriers that keep girls out of school. You’re giving them the tools, supplies and safe spaces that they need to focus on their studies and chase their dreams. And they are definitely chasing them – just look at Joan, who is on track to accomplish great things.