“Education holds the key to a better life and better society; a life with less poverty and better health’’
Written by: The Nairobi – GirlsEducation in Emergencies Advocacy Working Group
Education is critical in empowering and transforming the lives of young people, especially girls, yet widespread Sexual Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) in and around schools seriously undermines the achievement of high-quality, inclusive, and equitable education for vulnerable girls. The education Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 4) which aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all will never be achieved without understanding and reducing the barriers to girls’ education in fragile, conflict and crisis settings.
While the Kenyan government has created policies that offer equal opportunities to all, it has paid much less attention to the way policy is converted into action. Girls retention and completion rates in both primary and secondary schools remain significantly low. For instance, in secondary school enrolment and completion rates, there are 48.4% girls against 51.6% boys who are enrolled, and only 37% of girls complete their secondary education as opposed to 46% of boys (Catherine k et.al, 2015). This clearly depicts that girls are disproportionately disadvantaged in education and it is even worse for the girls living in emergencies settings in Kenya.
The Nairobi working group has developed an advocacy strategy with a key message on ‘’Keep Her Safe’’ which seeks to end sexual gender-based violence in schools within Eastleigh, Nairobi County. During a convening held in September 2021, stakeholders from the Ministry of Education, State Department for Gender, and CSOs came together to advocate for policy change, with most GBV cases being witnessed in these areas. It’s a menace that’s really destroying the future of the girls. We are targeting emergencies settings such as Eastleigh in Nairobi, where most of the girls are refugees and vulnerable. We are advocating for the signing of the Nairobi County GBV Control and Management Bill, into an Act by the Nairobi City County Assembly. We have developed a GBV Prevention and Management Strategy using an evidence-based approach because this will ensure a smooth running of our advocacy in addressing GBV cases in schools. The Government has been slow in responding to policy measures and actions related to stemming the rise in Sexual Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) especially that affecting school-going adolescent girls. The act and the Strategy will augment the work of the civil society in the County.
Recent research indicates that there are 67,267 refugees living in Nairobi County, and the majority are in the Eastleigh area (Against the odds: refugee integration in Kenya, December 2018). Many of the refugee girls are out of school or have had their education disrupted, because of war and disaster. These girls are in the most desperate need of educational support. Gender gaps exist at every level, with a mere 7% of girls continuing to secondary education as opposed to 22% boys. Only half of the refugee girls attend primary school, and less than a quarter are in secondary school.
According to McGovern 2021, in the past year, SGBV among adolescents and young women has doubled from 2.5-5.0% resulting to an increase in teenage pregnancies and school dropouts in Nairobi County. Further, according to a recent case study conducted by FAWE Kenya in Eastleigh, Nairobi County, 57% of the girls have experienced violence in one form or another. They have also been exposed to child labor and child marriages owing to the extreme poverty that they live in. This has been exacerbated by a lack of policy, rules, and guidelines governing SGBV cases in schools, inadequate knowledge of sexual reproductive health information, negative perception towards girls’ education and harmful cultural beliefs and norms. The benefits of our advocacy issue are that there will be enhanced student safety in schools within Nairobi County, increased retention in schools and increased awareness on SGBV in schools within Nairobi County.
Unlocking the power of education for all, including those in crisis-affected contexts, requires the development of education systems that are more resilient and responsive in the face of crisis.