“I had to repeat Class 8 several times because there was not funding for secondary school. That is when WISER came to my rescue.” – Leah, a WISER alumni
I am learning that WISER has “come to the rescue” for many girls. By providing girls with a scholarship that funds their entire secondary education, WISER is quite literally rescuing girls and their families from the stress of coming up with school fees. Unlike in the United States, public school is Kenya is not free. There are still fees that have to be paid—both at the primary and secondary level. This is where families are in situations where they have to choose whose education they fund. Most of the time, if there is enough money to fund only one child’s education, a son will be chosen to go to school over a daughter.
However, a lack school fees is not the only barrier keeping girls in Kenya out of the classroom. There is a simple resource every adolescent girl needs—sanitary pads. When a girl does not have access to pads, she misses school or uses dangerous alternatives such as rags, leaves, cotton wool, or mattress stuffing. According to the ZanaAfrica Foundation, almost a million girls in Kenya miss up to six weeks of school every year—many even eventually drop out—all because their families cannot afford sanitary pads and proper underwear.
WISER has partnered with Huru International, an organization that provides girls with free kits that have reusubale sanitary pads, HIV / AIDs prevention information, and resources necessary to promote sexual and reproductive health. In Kiswahili, Huru means freedom. WISER and Huru International are giving our girls the freedom to stay in school. Even more than that, WISER is providing younger girls in Muhuru that are still in primary school with sanitary pads in hopes of them missing less days of school. There is empowerment and there is freedom in understanding our bodies and in having safe resources to meet our bodies’ needs.
Meet Melavin. “I am WISER because I want to be a light to all the underprivileged girls of Muhuru Bay.” She is one of our Form 4 students, and she is a just weeks away from completing her KCSE (Kenyan Certificate of Secondary Education). Because WISER has enabled her to stay in school, she will hopefully now continue to obtain higher education. One day she wants to return to Muhuru to pull her family out of poverty and to inspire the girls who also come from this community. That’s the beauty in educating the girl child; she returns. Educated girls are more likely return to the community in which they were raised. That is how communities are transformed, empowerment is generated, and freedom lives.