Day of the girl child: 'Leaving women behind is like playing soccer with half the team.'

Woman politicians Joyce Laboso, Beatrice Elachi, Esther Gathogo, Alice Wahome, Mary Wambui and Rachael Shebesh in Kandara on May 31, 2016. [Photo, Courtesy]

As the world marked the International Day of the Girl Child, questions still linger on what efforts are in place to secure girls’ future.

Kwale Woman Representative Zulekha Juma, however, says there are plans in place to empower girls and improve their access to education.

Appearing on a local TV station on Thursday, the ODM politician said the state has scaled up efforts to keep girls in school, citing programmes to issue free sanitary towels.

Part of the conversation on empowering girls is whether too much attention is paid at the expense of the boys, who end up being forgotten.

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But Juma said what has enhanced the fight to champion girls’ rights is the fact that men are part of the campaign.

“Not all men are against girls’ empowerment,” she said.

Some of the challenges girls experience today include Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), early marriages and teenage pregnancy.

Juma reiterated that curtailing girls’ education through retrogressive cultural practices will hurt their chances in taking up leadership positions.

But more needs to be done, she said, citing the gender debate at the National Assembly, which was crippled by a botched quorum.

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In August, female MPs walked in with white head scarfs. Nominated MP Cecily Mbarire said it was a peaceful protest for the two-thirds gender rule to be passed.

The men said they felt intimidated and threatened.

The women walked in after Speaker Justin Muturi started the session, with their male counterparts chuckling and murmuring.

Kitutu Chache North MP Jimmy Angwenyi said the men should have been notified so they could wear caps to match the women’s scarfs.

Muturi dismissed the call, saying there was nothing unusual about women covering their hair.

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As the gender rule debate hots up, women politicians battle calls to scrap the woman representative slot, a position meant to increase the number of women parliamentarians in the House.

Speaking during the interview, the Kwale woman representative said, “Those against it fear the women are gaining popularity and may take up the men’s positions.”

Juma called for girls’ and women’s involvement in decision-making forums, saying, “Leaving women behind is like playing soccer with half the team.”

Some of the areas where retrogressive culture hurts girls’ development include West Pokot. World Vision and other stakeholders held a forum in the county on Thursday to mark the International Day of the Girl Child. Statistics show more than 67% of the population is uneducated, girls forming the majority.

Residents said poor education is linked to poverty. “Girls need to be educated so they can take up leadership positions,” one speaker said.

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International Day of the Girl ChildDay of the Girl ChildFGMWomen EmpowermentTeenage Pregnancy