“Our visitors we request you to support our education. As you see, ah we are clever. We are struggling for a better life.” September, 2009
This is the opening line to a song sung to me four years ago by a group of 34 of the bravest girls I have ever met, ages 8-12. These girls were living in a rescue center because they had refused undergo Female Genital Mutilation in preparation to be married when they were 12 or 13. They had been ridiculed and beaten and either fled their homes or were rescued as their homes were not safe anymore. I didn’t feel worthy to be standing on the same ground as they, knowing I wouldn’t have been as brave when I was 8 years old.
Now just four short years later, 14 of these girls are in their last month of secondary school, taking their final exams in order to graduate in less than a month and move forward once again: forward towards the better life they sang of so profoundly just four short years ago. And next year, more girls will take the exams and take that same step forward on to a better life – a life of their own choosing. And on, and on, and on. The cycle has begun. Hebrews 11:1 says “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Four short years ago, the future for the girls in the rescue center was not seen. There was no evidence anything would change. There was no girl’s secondary school in the area. But they had faith.
Change has come to West Pokot in Kenya. St. Elizabeth Girls Secondary School stands as a beacon of transformation. Today, there are 248 girls at St. Elizabeth, including the 34 brave girls I met just four years ago. At another girl’s secondary school 25 miles away, the numbers are just as remarkable. 12 girls attended St. Catherine Girls Secondary School in 2010 – now there are 217. Taken in aggregate, hundreds of families in the area are no longer choosing to marry their girls at 12 years old – rather invest in them through education for their future and the future of their community.
In partnership with World Vision, the Global Giveback Circle http://www.globalgivebackcircle.org/ provides means for women in the developed world to mentor vulnerable secondary school girls in Kenya, including the girls attending St. Elizabeth and St. Catherine, and upon graduation help them move forward to college and university. There are girls that want to be doctors, and biologists, and civil engineers, and journalists, and teachers, and nurses all because they were given a chance to continue to learn in secondary school. And now, through the kindness of donor and mentors, they will go on to higher education and graduate with degrees and skills.
But the story is not done here. You see, as the girls at St. Elizabeth and St. Catherine Girls Secondary School move forward, they are reaching their hands back to help lift up other younger girls, encouraging them to dream of a better life, providing them direction and mentorship. These girls are role models and they know it and embrace it. Once they graduate from college, they will come back to their community to live and work and help advance their community forward.
Cultural change is possible in four short years. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Do you want to be part of this change? If so, please consider mentoring a girl in Kenya through the Global Giveback Circle. You, too, will then have a story to tell in just four short years.