By Alloys Musyoka
A 23-year-old Mwanalima Mohamed is among hundreds of young girls from Kwale County who have benefitted from the She Leads project carried out by the Network for Adolescents and Youth of Africa.
After doing her class eight exam, she says her parents abandoned her, shutting her dream to join secondary school.
“My parents did not want me to go to school, especially my father. Instead, he wanted to marry me off. My appeal for joining form one was ignored,” she told Coast Times Digital.
Was it not for NAYA and the She Leads project that focuses on empowering young women, she says joining form one would not have happened.
The form three student says that she joined to form one three years after completing her primary school education.
“I had to run away from home and go to do menial jobs so that I can send money to my father to forget about marrying me off. I still had the dreams of going to school,” she says.
It is during the time she was working as a maid when she was involved in the She leads project by NAYA when she learnt that many offices could have helped her.
Mwanalima says that a single community sensitization meeting by NAYA and her friends on the rights of women in society helped to change her parent’s attitude towards her education.
“I went to the ward administrator’s office and that is how I was admitted to form one for my secondary school education three years ago,” she added.
She is among other beneficiaries who are advocating for the rights of women in society and raising their voices on issues affecting them.
Her case is similar to that of Mwanaisha Omar from the Bombo area who says that the NAYA sensitization program helped her know her rights and raise her voice.
“We do advocacy for the community on issues around young women leadership in villages and also in schools. The project has helped us to raise our voices and speak for our rights and also demand them. Previously decisions would be made without women’s involvement, not like now,” she said.
Mwanasha Weko from Mkokoni village in Matuga says that she is now a trained tailor and a community advocate courtesy She Leads a project that has helped her to know her rights.
Apart from knowing their rights, Mwanasha says that they have also been trained in entrepreneurial skills to ensure they are economically empowered.
“We were trained on matters of early marriage, early pregnancy, child labour, not to allow sex for money. Also how to do business like soap making and Viazi Karai and that is when we started making soap which we sell to date,” she added.
Mwanasha says that many young mothers have been forced to engage in sex for money due to lack of work to help in supporting their children but the project has helped a lot to address the issue.
“For now we sell soap and participate in merry ground. We do sensitization to the community and ensure young mothers and girls are empowered. For those who are affected by early pregnancy, they should not give up. There is an opportunity to do business and avoid being taken advantage of by men. I started my soap business with Sh500,” she advised.