Expanding Opportunities for girls in rural Kenya

In November 2013 I spent a month in Kenya working closely with an NGO called Expanding Opportunities to provide them with photos for their website, newsletters and social media. The organisation has a number of facets and I was able to focus on two of these, the children's home called JWHS, and the outreach work in Samburu to rescue young girls from forced marriages and help educate them at the local school. 

Once the children's home in Nakuru was established, Expanding Opportunities began investigating how best to help the young girls in rural Kenya who are subjected to female genital mutilation and often forced into marriages to older men at a young age. Although the Kenyan constitution has banned these practises and states that each child has the right to education, in rural areas, communities live by ancient tradition rather than national law. 

After much research, the resounding need that was discovered was education for these girls. As stated on their website, "Education builds knowledge, confidence, avenues of support and therefore weakens exploitation, poverty and dependency."

Expanding Opportunities partners with the fantastic work being done at a school in the heart of remote Samburuland in rural Kenya. Here there are teachers and headmaster, Kiboi Maina, are dedicated to protecting and empowering the girls who express an interest in attending school. By raising awareness about these girls, Expanding Opportunities helps to raise boarding fees and living allowances to keep these girls in school. Because of the nomadic pastoralist lifestyle which the Samburu people lead, boarding school is the only way for these girls to have a consistent education, and often the only way to ensure that they do not fall pregnant at a young age. 

I have separated this blog in two parts, the first gives a brief view of the lifestyle and culture of the Samburu people, and the second section focusses on the Kipsing Primary School and the involvement of Expanding Opportunities with the community. 

The Samburu

Samburu_Spekboom_SophieSmith.jpg
Samburu.jpg
Samburu7_Spekboom_SophieSmith.jpg
Young girls are engaged to be sold in marriage from a very young age.

Young girls are engaged to be sold in marriage from a very young age.

When a young woman is being courted by a moran, he gives her a bright collar of colourful beads to show that she is his girlfriend. Once she gets married to the man she has been promised too, she must give these beads back and wear different jewellery to indicate her new status.

When a young woman is being courted by a moran, he gives her a bright collar of colourful beads to show that she is his girlfriend. Once she gets married to the man she has been promised too, she must give these beads back and wear different jewellery to indicate her new status.

This young girl's beads show that she is not only engaged to be married, she has also been claimed by a local man who regularly has sexual intercourse with her. Although this beadwork is a source of cultural pride, it is also seen by some to be a symbol of sexual slavery.

This young girl's beads show that she is not only engaged to be married, she has also been claimed by a local man who regularly has sexual intercourse with her. Although this beadwork is a source of cultural pride, it is also seen by some to be a symbol of sexual slavery.

The woman wear these heavy bead collars where ever they go, despite the extreme heat.

The woman wear these heavy bead collars where ever they go, despite the extreme heat.

By the end of a woman's life, her beads are like a diary that tell the story of her life. The girl on the right is in the process of moving her family's flocks to greener pastures, carrying water and the young goats that are too small to make the journey themselves.

By the end of a woman's life, her beads are like a diary that tell the story of her life. The girl on the right is in the process of moving her family's flocks to greener pastures, carrying water and the young goats that are too small to make the journey themselves.

Samburu families are pastoralists and move with their flocks to follow the green grass. Their houses are suited to this lifestyle - small and easy to pack up and move on. These donkeys are carrying the family home and all their possessions on it their backs.

Samburu families are pastoralists and move with their flocks to follow the green grass. Their houses are suited to this lifestyle - small and easy to pack up and move on. These donkeys are carrying the family home and all their possessions on it their backs.

Once they find good grazing and set up their homes, this is what their homes look like. Each man usually has a few wives who each have their own house. The group of houses is known as a manyatta and is often surrounded in thorn bushes and thick brush to keep hyenas out at night.

Once they find good grazing and set up their homes, this is what their homes look like. Each man usually has a few wives who each have their own house. The group of houses is known as a manyatta and is often surrounded in thorn bushes and thick brush to keep hyenas out at night.

In the harsh and arid Samburu land, the milk, blodd and meat of goats and cows are essantial to the Samburu people's survival. Here an elder kills a goat for a local celebration in typical Samburu style, by suffocating it so that the animal is unconscious when it is slaughtered.

In the harsh and arid Samburu land, the milk, blodd and meat of goats and cows are essantial to the Samburu people's survival. Here an elder kills a goat for a local celebration in typical Samburu style, by suffocating it so that the animal is unconscious when it is slaughtered.

It is killed by making a small slit in its throat and the blood is drunk as a delicacy, an honour, and for this boy, a rite of passage, as this was his first time.

It is killed by making a small slit in its throat and the blood is drunk as a delicacy, an honour, and for this boy, a rite of passage, as this was his first time.

Although many Samburu men are embracing aspects of modernity such as cell phones, Facebook and cell phone banking, the traditions surrounding female circumcision and child marriage are ancient and will take many years to change.

Although many Samburu men are embracing aspects of modernity such as cell phones, Facebook and cell phone banking, the traditions surrounding female circumcision and child marriage are ancient and will take many years to change.



Kipsing Primary School

School.jpg
Education for young girls is by no means a priority for most parent, who would rather see their daughters married. Some parents choose to send their children to school, but the school is also a refuge for girls who run away from home, desperate to go to school and make a future for themselves. The local police force will help to enforce the girls' right to an education if they come to the school for help. Many of these girls dream of becoming nurses or teachers. Some even want to become lawyers to help fight for girls' rights in Kenya.

Education for young girls is by no means a priority for most parent, who would rather see their daughters married. Some parents choose to send their children to school, but the school is also a refuge for girls who run away from home, desperate to go to school and make a future for themselves. The local police force will help to enforce the girls' right to an education if they come to the school for help. Many of these girls dream of becoming nurses or teachers. Some even want to become lawyers to help fight for girls' rights in Kenya.

School8.jpg
Kipsing Primary School was founded by the Catholic Church but is now a government school and so the students do not have to pay for their schooling, however due to their families' nomadic lifestyle, they cannot stay in school unless they are in boarding school. This is the boarding facility which is still run by the Catholic church.

Kipsing Primary School was founded by the Catholic Church but is now a government school and so the students do not have to pay for their schooling, however due to their families' nomadic lifestyle, they cannot stay in school unless they are in boarding school. This is the boarding facility which is still run by the Catholic church.

Early every morning the students are all expected to attend mass. Here the girls walk from their dormitory to the chapel as the sun rises.

Early every morning the students are all expected to attend mass. Here the girls walk from their dormitory to the chapel as the sun rises.

Breakfast at school consists of sweet black tea - not what most people would call breakfast but there are smiles all round here.

Breakfast at school consists of sweet black tea - not what most people would call breakfast but there are smiles all round here.

The money that EO raises for these girls covers their food and lodging as well as their school uniforms and basic needs like soap and a toothbrush. Even with sponsorship, life is not easy for the girls - they carry water, do their chores, and work hard to catch up on years of missed education in hope of a better future.

The money that EO raises for these girls covers their food and lodging as well as their school uniforms and basic needs like soap and a toothbrush. Even with sponsorship, life is not easy for the girls - they carry water, do their chores, and work hard to catch up on years of missed education in hope of a better future.

This is the girls' dormitory at Kipsing Primary. These girls have finished their exams and are going home for the holidays whichis always an uncertain experience for these girls. Although they miss their families, they are often prevented from coming back, or fall pregnant while on holiday and are forbidden from coming back to school.

This is the girls' dormitory at Kipsing Primary. These girls have finished their exams and are going home for the holidays whichis always an uncertain experience for these girls. Although they miss their families, they are often prevented from coming back, or fall pregnant while on holiday and are forbidden from coming back to school.

These are six of the girls that the headmaster has highlighted as being promising students. They are in need of sponsorship to help them stay in school. Expanding Opportunities helps raise support for these promising students.

These are six of the girls that the headmaster has highlighted as being promising students. They are in need of sponsorship to help them stay in school. Expanding Opportunities helps raise support for these promising students.

Kate is the social worker for EO who communicates with the girls about their schooling, how they are doing, and what their basic needs are.

Kate is the social worker for EO who communicates with the girls about their schooling, how they are doing, and what their basic needs are.

Kate visits the family manyatta of one of the girls who EO supports (far right). Unfortunately their mother has left the family and their dad is an alcoholic and so the children are hungry and their clothes are threadbare.

Kate visits the family manyatta of one of the girls who EO supports (far right). Unfortunately their mother has left the family and their dad is an alcoholic and so the children are hungry and their clothes are threadbare.

This local community send their children to school under a tree. While the children learn, the mothers sit and watch and chant along, learning their alphabets and counting.

This local community send their children to school under a tree. While the children learn, the mothers sit and watch and chant along, learning their alphabets and counting.

The teacher at the school is a 15 year old girl who completed grade 1 before she was taken out of school to get married. She wishes that she could have carried on with her schooling, but is happy that she can help educate the local children.

The teacher at the school is a 15 year old girl who completed grade 1 before she was taken out of school to get married. She wishes that she could have carried on with her schooling, but is happy that she can help educate the local children.

The little school has virtually no teaching resources, just a black board, two benches, and two charts, one with number and one with words. This community is so hungry for knowledge and education that they make a plan with what they have.

The little school has virtually no teaching resources, just a black board, two benches, and two charts, one with number and one with words. This community is so hungry for knowledge and education that they make a plan with what they have.

Each child comes to the front of the class, and using a stick, point to each number, leading the class as they chant the numbers out loud.

Each child comes to the front of the class, and using a stick, point to each number, leading the class as they chant the numbers out loud.

As the children from the school play soccer on the dirt field, a rainbow shines over the field, a sign of hope for a brighter future despite the hardships and challenges facing these children.

As the children from the school play soccer on the dirt field, a rainbow shines over the field, a sign of hope for a brighter future despite the hardships and challenges facing these children.

If you would like to get involved with this school or support any of the girls here, please get hold of them through this website: http://www.expandingopportunities.org/