(WOMENSENEWS)— People here say that education is the key to success for girls, but I consider it a tired slogan because many do not take part in promoting this key. Despite the many organizations in my country set up to support girls’ education, many of the girls I know face challenges because they themselves do not know how to value opportunity.
Most of the girls I know have mobile phones that can tweet, Facebook, WhatsApp etc. Instead of using their time well to study hard or research facts, they get pulled into social sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp whereby prosperous men lie to them about how they are loved. It is worrying because according to recent local news reports, 33 percent of Kenyans girls (15-24 years old) have relationships with “sponsors” (prosperous old men) who provide for them in exchange of their bodies. These are girls whom we are trying to mold as our future leaders; instead they have unplanned pregnancies or get sexually transmitted diseases. For instance, my sister finished high school last year and even with all the knowledge and life skills she gained in school, she got pregnant even before her final test scores were released. It is so shaming to hear that she got a clean B+ but unfortunately it won’t have any impact on her life. All her dreams are shattered because of socializing with a teacher who took advantage of her naiveté.
Another challenge is lack of parental guidance and support. Another girl in my neighboring school told me how her uncle had sexually defiled her from elementary through high school. This, the uncle claimed, was his reward for paying this girl’s school fees. She suffered in silence to save her education. Eventually she told her school about the perverse, barbaric act and it help her through counseling. This happened because her parents had passed away but in many communities, it is an abomination for parents to talk about sex. So it is no wonder so many of my peers have dropped out of school because of unplanned pregnancies.
I hate to think that so many organizations that are trying to stop female genital mutilation, early marriage, poverty, abuse — and all the other things that are keeping girls behind — in vain. I believe that education is the key to putting these challenges in our past and not in our future. But I also know, based on every girl I see at Daraja Academy and every girl I visit in my home community, that we must be accountable to our own inner drive if we want to succeed. We have to take responsibility for wanting as much for ourselves as the aid workers, our teachers and the nongovernmental organizations who want to help us.