, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 23 – Struck by the yoke of poverty, the dream of a 16-year-old Limuru girl was withering – a norm in a country struggling with a mind-boggling gap between the haves and haves not.
But her story was to be different thanks to a guardian angel that illuminated hope in Grace John’s life at a time when she was lost in the world of adolescence and the uncertainty of facing tomorrow.
The dream that was to die, sprouted a healthy tree whose fruits are a direct lifeline for 50 girls, some who come from poverty-stricken families just like it was for Grace while others are teenage mothers.
“I started this project five years ago because I had a passion to reach a girl child having done psychology in the university. I always felt a need to go after the girl child; I started with three girls and by God’s grace we now have fifty of them,” she said.
She says the urge to inspire a smile in a soul full of doubts is her biggest motivation.
An urge that saw her start Neema Girls Project, that has seen tens of girls impacted with technical knowledge that includes sewing, beading and knitting among other skills.
“The passion that led me to start this project was because there were so many needs in this area including early pregnancies, school dropouts and I really asked myself what I could do to give back to the society because my education was also sponsored by a good Samaritan; and that is how I came up with this Neema Project,” explained Grace with a broad smile on her face.
All her beneficiaries have a unique story, but the basic conditions are replicated in thousands of homesteads across the country.
One such girl is Dolphine Barongo who hails from a family of seven with their mother a sole bread winner since their father suffered a spinal injury.
“I met grace in a certain camp and several girls were selected and I joined this place while still in primary school. I later joined Neema girls where I have been mentored and learnt a lot of things. I sat for my KCSE in 2017 and it is my desire to continue with education so that I can also help my family,” Barongo said.
A step at a time, Grace is making change, to a society that needs it most.
“I joined this place in 2012 after staying home for one year doing nothing. I am now good at what I do, and I teach others. My request to any well-wisher outside there is to help us continue with our studies and also buy our merchandise so that we can be able to support ourselves,” another beneficiary, Sylvia Kigame, said.
The girls hope that one day, they will be able to continue with their higher learning in order to achieve their career dreams.
Globally, nine in ten girls complete primary education, but only three in four complete their lower secondary education.
In low income countries, less than two thirds of girls complete their primary education, and only one in three completes lower secondary school.
The consequences for girls dropping out of school prematurely are severe.
A report by World Bank estimates the losses in lifetime productivity and earnings for girls of not completing 12 years of education at $15 trillion to $30 trillion dollars globally.
This is because on average, women with secondary education earn twice as much as those with no education.