where are the girls?

We now have 30 Community MKKs on our list! After counting and adding the new kids to our database, it seemed to me that we have been adding a lot more boys than girls. Actually, of our most recent 6, only 1 is a girl.

Of all our MKKs, we have 12 girls and 18 boys. Of those 12 girls, half are in the same family. Our 30 kids represent 17 different families: 3 families are girls only, 4 families are both boys and girls, and 10 families are only boys. I wondered aloud about this to Rodgers. Why have so many more families asked for help putting their boy orphans through school? Where are the girls?

One of our newest girls, Tumaini, is an unusual case. Her older brother dropped out of school when their parents died. He went to work to support her, and recently he has been trying to help her go to school. She's about 6 years behind. These days, there are roughly the same number of girls and boys in school in Kenya, especially in primary school but becoming moreso in secondary school as well. However, when education is a luxury, which it is for all of our MKKs, most families prioritize the boys' education.

It is traditional to prioritize boys' education over girls'. It makes sense to them. The boys will grow up to be husbands and fathers. They will need to provide for the family. They need to be able to get good jobs. Thus they need to be educated more than girls do.

However, when girls have gone to school, they become mothers whose children have a better chance at survival. Since the mother is typically the primary caregiver, her education level affects her children greatly. Children whose mother went to school "are more likely to survive, be better nourished and go to school themselves." (source: UNICEF) World Bank also emphasizes that educating girls can serve to bring families out of poverty. UNICEF and partners, including World Bank, launched an initiative in April 2000, specifically focused on getting more girls into school, called UNGEI (United Nations Girls Education Initiative). Their progress in Kenya can be found on their website.

On the flip side, when girls are not educated, they are "more vulnerable to poverty, hunger, violence, abuse and exploitation, trafficking, HIV/AIDS and maternal mortality." (source: UNICEF) Their children will be less likely to go to school, and the cycle continues.

All that to say: Educating girls is important. We have tasked ourselves with finding out where the girls are. Maybe we just haven't come across as many families that need help with orphaned sisters or nieces. Maybe we have, but they think we'd only be interested in helping their brothers or nephews.

P.S. On a related note, millions of adolescent girls miss class several days every month because they can't afford feminine hygiene products. This great organization is helping them out: http://www.facebook.com/kilifigirls