I sponsor a girl known as S. She lives in a small tribal village in rural Kenya with her Grandmother. Their home is a single room mud hut with a dirt floor and a corrugated iron roof. She doesn’t know her father. In Kenya there is a culture of men riding into villages, impregnating girls, then moving onto the next settlement. Her mother is studying away from home. Food is scarce for S. Clean, safe water is virtually non-existent. AIDS and HIV are common diseases in her village and the nearest medical facility is a six hour walk away. She is 7 years old. The same age as my daughter.
Today is International Day of the Girl: a day that aims to raise awareness of the rights of girls and to stand with the global community to support girls’ progress everywhere.
Kenya is a country of extreme and endemic poverty. Over half of the population lives below the poverty line. There is a high population growth rate, a lack of basic resources, and a daily fight for survival. Infant mortality is high; employment is frustratingly low. Drought, flooding, malnutrition, and the spread of AIDS is rife. And in the midst of this failing infrastructure are the children, whose only hope of a different future is to break the cycle of poverty. Girls in particular are less likely to break free.
Only 30% of girls in Kenya regularly attend school. They can miss up to six weeks of school every year because of their monthly period. They have few effective methods of managing menstrual hygiene in Kenya and girls are frequently banished from their homes and schools during this time.
25% of Kenyan girls are married by the age of 18. Girls are often responsible for most of the household chores; 26% of all youth aged between 5 and 14 years’ substitute education for child labour. The barbaric practice of Female Genital Mutilation is still practised in many tribal regions of Kenya. Girls are typically cut around the age of 14. The savage procedure leaves them maimed, disillusioned and undignified. ‘The cut’ was outlawed in Kenya in 2001, and its illegality reinforced in 2011, yet many ethnic groups continue the barbaric practice of female circumcision.
She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. (Proverbs 31:25)
I often wonder how I would feel if I knew I wouldn’t be able to feed my daughter tomorrow. Or if I could only offer her dirty, contaminated water to quench her thirst. And how I would cope with saying goodnight to her on a cold, damp floor, and saying goodbye to her in the morning as I left her alone for hours whilst I searched for work and pennies to buy food for her. Then I think about S and the millions of girls out there like her. And I shoot up an arrow of prayer straight to the heart of God praying for His blessing and provision on their lives.
It’s not just today that these young girls need our thoughts and prayers. Please pray for them always, and follow the work of Speak 31 as we aim to make a real difference to their lives.
Photo by Gerhard Grobe.