Guest post by Margie French, Board Member of the Global Give Back Circle
Rituals die hard in the remote region of the Western Rift Valley in Kenya where forced early marriage and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), now illegal in Kenya, continue to this day. That is changing thanks to 10x10 partner World Vision, which launched its Marich Pass Integrated Programme Area in 1996.
Its weapon? Education.
Not only has World Vision been educating the local West Pokot community about the health risks of FGM and the advantages of educated daughters, they go into primary schools to teach girls and boys about the dangers of FGM. The girls’ literacy rate, one of the lowest in Kenya, is rising and many more girls are completing primary school. When World Vision learns that a FGM is planned, they move in and rescue the girl; local authorities arrest the parents. Even more remarkable, many girls run away from their homes and walk for days to the safety of a school rather than become the fourth wife of an old man.
The promise for these girls is St. Elizabeth’s Secondary School.
When Margo Day, a vice president at Microsoft, met 35 of these rescued girls in West Pokot in 2009, she learned that 14 would graduate primary school and had no place to go. Margo swung into action. In two years and $300,000 later, 74 girls including 21 rescued girls now attend St. Elizabeth’s Secondary School. More will come. The new Margo Day dorm alone accommodates 104 girls. Computer and science labs open this month.
In October, Linda Lockhart, Founder of the Global Give Back Circle (GGBC) met Margo in Redmond, WA. When Linda learned about the girls at St. Elizabeth’s, she knew that GGBC could make a profound difference.
Seven weeks later I joined Linda in making the two-hour drive from Kitale to Marich Pass to St. Elizabeth’s where we met Rosemary, Pauline and 19 other courageous girls.
The promise to these 21 girls, and those still in primary school, now goes far beyond secondary school. In an innovative partnership between GGBC and Microsoft, women half way around the world in Redmond will donate their time to virtually mentor the girls. Microsoft, their employer, will match hours with dollars which, over time, will fill the financial gap between government loans and college tuition. GGBC will ensure that they have intensive computer and financial literacy training during the vulnerable gap period after high school and before university when these girls would otherwise walk out into the world alone.
GGBC is a sustainable empowerment model which transitions girls from beneficiaries to benefactors and instills a “give back” ethos. It is not surprising that when four GGBC beneficiaries attending Moi University heard about the plan to bring 21 new girls to the circle they said, “We want to help!” So Rosemary and Pauline will be doubly blessed with virtual adult mentors from Microsoft and young, very much empowered role models from Kenya who will bring them into the GGBC family, lift up their hearts, and promise them the opportunity of a college education, employment, and global citizenship.