US Side Participant Ellen: The girls on the call this morning were very clear about the many challenges young girls in Kenya face in school and in their social lives. They voiced the problems on topics such as self esteem, peer pressure, the challenges they face when they have their period, teen pregnancy and STDs and being separated from boys because they could be seen as a threat from the parents and society. I was very interested in the later. To me the current situation of boys vs girls social environment can pit them against each other. Boys should be girl’s allies! They should work together, play together and be there for each other for their mutual benefit. Boys should be their friends, their protector and most important learn to be equals. I believe the parents are the ones enforcing this social rule on their girls and boys and we need them to get involved to create change. Maybe by meeting the boys and their families and creating a community around them.
Good Morning Friends of Small Solutions Bukokholo Kenya Education Center
We apologize if you were not able to connect to our call this morning. We had issues with the tools for sharing conversations online. We tried Zoom, but the sound on the Kenya side, and the faces and voices of the girls from four different schools could not be heard. I will send the teacher some funds to try some new plug in microphones.
Then we tried Skype. We had a video, but the sound feedback and buzzing was too much. This happens, but we moved ahead with WhatsApp.
So we had a clear voice connection with Whatsapp. Ellen Reis joined us while girls shared the discussions they have been holding in small groups at their schools.
It is very moving to hear the voices of these girls talk about the social and cultural issues that make their life difficult, and become barriers to school attendance and make their daily life challenging.
I was most moved by their desire to have normal friendships with boys. They described the attitudes of adults that prevent them from developing friendships with boys. In school, in their classrooms, playgrounds, and walking to and from school or doing errands in their village, they are discouraged from talking to or walking with boys. Parents and others believe that if they are with a boy and are of the age to be sexually active that they are putting themselves in harms way. They are likely to accuse them of having a sexual relationship with these boys.
The girls seem to long for normal friendships with boys who are their own age. They know they are good smart boys who can help them with their school work, or possibly protect them from more dangerous older men who are looking for girls for sex. They want to be friends with them.
They talked about the attitude of parents. Sometimes it is not providing materials so that they can manage their menstrual flow, or their parents’ fear of friendships with boys, their belief in FGM as a necessary procedure for girls. One girl mentioned parents who push their daughters into prostitution for the money. They also mentioned that many men do not believe in the necessity of using medicine to control STIs. Most girls use pills to protect themselves from pregnancy, not condoms as I had thought. So they are afraid of contracting STIs.
I was impressed at their awareness of the need to understand their emotions. They said that often they don’t recognize or understand the strong feeling they have when they are attracted to a boy, and understand that it is a normal feeling and don’t have to act on it. The said that they know that boys like sex. But they would like to be just friends with them, not a girlfriend. They know that they can understand and learn to manage their feelings.