It is undeniably painful that girls and women in Kenya are still grappling with some old age cultural sidelining that adds to their present-day challenges in Kenya. Since the pre-colonial times, girls and women's space has been preserved for marriages and home chores. Little is heard of women leaders, and even if they rise to those ranks, they have to go through unique sets of challenges to reach these positions.
At the end of it all, the women resign to fate and settle for the lesser positions or shy off from leadership.
A lot of sensitization and empowerment have been done over the years, but all the efforts taken are either ineffective or insufficient. The government has been on the forefront to see the modern Kenyan girl and woman is living life to the fullest of her potential. While what the government has done is laudable, a lot still needs to be done to keep the Kenyan girl and woman at per with the current changes.
Here is a breakdown of some of the ways the challenges girls and women face in Kenya in education and leadership can be solved.
Deal with Violence against Girls in School
While both girls and boys encounter harassment and abuse on their way to, at, and from school, girls are usually the most affected. Such violence and bullying cases could distract and push the girls far from the school. If this happens in regions where little value is placed on the girl child education, then it is highly unlikely that the girl will be taken back to school to study.
The government and schools should work in conjunction to see that there are regular guidance and canceling programs. These programs help solve the bullying and other challenges girls encounter on their way to school and are afraid to talk. An effective follow-up plan should be laid out to help solve these problems and root them out to the core.
This way, girls will be more comfortable and confident to come to school, knowing they have someone ready to lend them a listening ear.
Speak and Bring Awareness of Challenges Encountered at Home
It is no secret that numerous families struggle with home-based violence, which sadly, never ends well for women and children. A lot of cases of violence pitying women and children in Kenyan homes have been reported in the recent past, especially in the wake of the COVID 19 pandemic.
The government should allow NGOs and other organizations to speak of the ills women and little children pass through in homes. This will help the vulnerable parties find their voice and speak up when it is still early to get the help they need. Educating women on their rights and position in marriages gives them an understanding of what to tolerate and what not to.
Impose Hefty Fines and Harsh Punishments on those Guilty of Raping Girls and Women
Kenyan law system needs to be adjusted to include stringent laws against rapists. Most of the reported sexual violence in Kenya is usually rape and is against girls and women due to their weak physicality. It is said that most of the time, such cases are solved at the community level, and the perpetrators are left free after paying some little fine. The ladies and girls remain unsafe, not knowing when next their attackers will strike.
A rapist is a dream shutter; he snatches a young girl's life and shutters most if not all of her dreams. This way, the government should see that those found guilty are given hefty fines or met with harsh punishment. This way, they become incapacitated to repeat such mistakes, and it becomes a lesson to others.
Link Communities at Risk with Specialists
It is easier for the communities at risk of gender-based violence and deteriorating education opportunities to help this modern time. There are numerous self-sponsored organizations, NGO's and companies seeking to do CSR that needs guidance to the right communities that need help most.
Without bothering the government, you can extend a gesture of goodwill by linking a community you know needs help with a reputable organization by writing to them or giving a call. If you are privileged to have gained some education and come from such communities, you could take this as a personal initiative to help your community.
Rural areas suffer the most as they usually lack the connection they need to get help and exposure to opportunities. A simple comment on a Facebook post or highlighting a story through your social media platforms could bring the necessary help to the community needs. So never shy off sharing such stories when you have the chance.
Giving Men and Women Equal Opportunities in Leadership Positions
Before 2010, when the Kenyan constitution was promulgated, women in Kenya never had the open chances to leadership like they have today. The constitution now offers women exclusive seats such as the women representative position and the parliament's nominated positions.
While these positions have boosted women's ratio in leadership positions, a lot needs to be done to push women into the competitive positions available for both men and women. Sensitization should educate people that a woman must not be married to be qualified for a leadership position. Many qualified women have lost the opportunity to become leaders because they sidelined them for not being married.
Liaise with Respected Local Elders in the Community
In some of Kenya's remotest areas, it is hard to penetrate and convince locals on anything without involving their local leaders. The elder of such communities are held in high regard, and walking with them gives you an easier time convincing locals to embrace new ways and shun harmful cultural practices.
Getting the elders' endorsements gives your organization an upper hand in the fight against evil and backward traditions. For example, Plan International Kenya has been on the front run against violation of Kenyan children's rights since 1982. They have had successful campaigns in most communities, such as the Meru community because they liaise with the elders during their campaigns.
Raising Girls as Leaders and not Housewives.
When young girls with leadership potentials are brought up knowing they can and should be leaders, they get intrinsically empowered to follow their dreams. However, this is not may not always be the case in Kenya. As bad as it may be, girls and boys are trained to fit specific gender roles; as you will see, many boys leaning towards male-dominant career paths while girls resort to feminine ones.
The government has tried implementing a better education curriculum to identify a child's potential at a young age and nourish it until the skill is mature enough for use. The Competency-Based Curriculum, locally known as CBC, is a ray of light that the Kenyan girl hopes will bring some light to her leadership dreams. This should encourage parents to work closely with their kids to identify and monitor their talents from a young age.
Work with the Youth to Bring Awareness
Apart from the fact that youths are the major beneficiaries of the change in leadership, they also have a lot of energy that could be useful for such drives. When trying to reach out to communities and people in direction on any change topic, using the youth positively is a great asset; your team cannot leave.
Youths are the most hit when bad rules and poor leadership reign over the people. Using them to drive for change is the best way to communicate the pain of outdated laws to the necessary institutions of power. Youth drives can help bad laws that tolerate girls' infringement rights to be scrapped off the constitution.
Make it Easy to Access Justice.
Kenya's justice system has not been anything good to write home about for a long time now. While this affects all the country's sectors, it hits differently on women who seek justice for their children or from cruel spouses. A lot of cases on home-based violence, rape, and sexual assault never come to a successful conclusion thanks to the drag in the judicial system.
Cases piling up in court and women forced to wait for several years to get justice is equal to denying them that justice in the first place. The government should improve the judicial system so that such cases could be dealt with in the desired duration of time so that justice could be served while still hot.
Kenya has done a commendable job to curb the social ills affecting the progress of girls and women in the country. However, more needs to be done to place the country in a safe position with her women. Maybe, with more leaders in power being women, Kenya will see the positive change she has longed for many years. Empowering women is a journey that should begin when the child is still young. Letting them grow understanding their clear roles in the society is a gift they will live to embrace forever.