Kenya: Return to school policy does not benefit poor teenage mothers

Poverty prevents teenage mothers from benefiting from returning to school, a government official said last week.

The Department of Social Sector Policy and Strategy in the President’s Office, Director Elizabeth Mueni, said teenage mothers from low-income households may need more support to resume studies after childbirth.

“If you are in a slum, you have to work because there is nobody to look after the child,” she said, referring to the teenage mothers.

“We should be doing a strategic impact assessment of a policy because there are people who need you to do other things to make sure they benefit from other policies,” she added.

Mercy Corps Kenya Country Director Yohannes Wolday said the three-year project, which runs alongside the urban community in Haiti, between pastoral communities in Kenya and Uganda, could benefit 70,000 boys and girls ages 10 to 24.

In Kenya alone, 26,000 girls and boys in Marsabit, Wajir, Turkana and Garissa will benefit from the initiative to improve girls’ life and financial literacy.

“Empowering girls is changing society,” said Wolday.

But in order for the girls to be fully empowered, parents and teachers need to be actively involved in their lives, said Waithera Gaitho., Executive Director of Alternatives Africa

“Girls cannot thrive in the market without the support of their parents and teachers,” she said.

Ms. Gaitho said that through consistent affirmation, parents and teachers help girls gain self-confidence and develop self-esteem, qualities that are key to fulfilling lives.

Technology option

“Without confidence and self-esteem, it’s nearly impossible to be successful in the marketplace,” she noted.

She said it was complicated to transform a woman who grew up in a hostile and condescending environment.

“When you grow up that you are good at having a husband, and later as an adult you say that you can be economically strong, how do you think that?” She posed.

Esther Wagaki, Chief Executive Officer of eMentoring Africa, vouched for peer learning, where girls share their experiences and help each other to expand their knowledge and develop life skills.

She identified technology options such as videos as a means to educate girls in remote areas.

“Get parents involved to appreciate the value of technology in upskilling girls,” she said.

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