Maureen Bii during the distribution of sanitary towels to 500 girls in Ogiek. Photo Credit: Maureen Bii

Leaders in Kenya should invest more in 10 years old girls

Sexual and gender-based violence, forced marriage and other social vices that undermine the health and rights of girls prevent them from realizing their full potential. As they transition into youth and adulthood, they are unable to contribute to the economic and social progress of their communities and country. Without their contributions, Vision 2030 and Sustainable Development Goals may never be achieved.

According to the United Nation Population Fund, ten is a crucial age for girls everywhere, as puberty approaches during this time. In most of the developed countries, a girl at this age will enjoy limitless possibilities and begins to make choices that will influence her education and later her career life. However in developing and least developed countries, a girl at this age is seen as a commodity that may be sold, traded or bought. She may be forced to marry, drop out of school and expected to start bearing children and begin a lifetime of servitude.

One of the agenda for the Sustainable Development Goals aims for equitable development that leaves no one behind.  Removing all barriers that hold these ten years old girls back can help make the agenda be a success in this country.

In Kenya, 48 percent of girls aged 10 years are systematically disadvantaged as they move through adolescence into adulthood. According to the Kenya Demographic Health Survey 2014, girls are less likely than boys to complete formal schooling at the secondary and university levels, are more liable to be in poorer physical and mental health, and will find it harder to get paid jobs.

Although Kenya has passed laws and policies that protect these 10-year-old girls, more has to be done when it comes to implementation of these laws and policies. Hindering a girl’s safe and healthy path through adolescence to a productive and autonomous adulthood is a violation of her rights.

Whenever a girl’s potential goes unrealized, we all lose. With support from family, community, and nation, and the full realization of her rights, a 10-year-old girl can thrive and help bring about the future we all want. How we invest in and support 10-year-old girls today will determine what our world will look like in 2030.

Michael Okun Oliech is a communication officer at dance4life Kenya, a youth serving Non-Governmental Organization that does sexual and reproductive health and rights advocacy and behavior change communication. He has a BA in Development Studies, undergone training on media advocacy, and budget advocacy by Network for Adolescents and Youths of Africa- Kenya and Choice for Youth and Sexuality of the Netherlands. He is also a well-known blogger on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Issues, a human rights activist, LGBT rights defender and youth advocate at Network for Adolescents and Youths of Africa. His twitter handle is @mikeokunson.

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