Imagine your daughter dropping out of fifth grade because she has been forced to marry a man three times her age? Or because she had no access to sanitary towels? Or simply just because she was a girl – expected to be at home doing chores and leaving the pursuit of higher education to the boys. Couple these challenges with harmful cultural practices such as female genital cutting and ‘beading’ – and the chances of a young Samburu woman reaching high school are slim.
Ol Pejeta and PA-MOJA are working together to build a dormitory for 100 girls at Ereri Primary School, which will aim to provide the young women with a safe haven where they can study, rest, and seek refuge from factors that might affect their grades or attendance. It would also mean that students like Mary Lekolel in grade three would not face an 8km walk to school every day, which she often does on an empty stomach. Her family, like many Samburu families, is semi-nomadic, and follows the rains in search of good grazing for their livestock. Having a permanent base at school would mean that Mary would not have to drop out every time her family travelled several days walk away.
The PA-MOJA team of volunteers visited Ereri School earlier this year, and plans are well underway to have the dormitory built in the first half of 2015. The school is a long way from being able to offer full residential facilities to all pupils, but the girl’s dorm is certainly a great start. It means Mary, and many other girls like her, stand a real chance at taking control of their own destinies, and that of their country and its wildlife too.