In the arid and semi-arid landscapes of Northern Kenya, where challenges like drought, poverty, and limited access to education disproportionately affect young girls, Mercy Corps and partners has taken a bold step towards transforming lives through its Girls Improving Resilience through Livelihoods (GIRL) program.
I recently visited Northern Kenya, a region with a vast and unforgiving terrain where traditional gender roles, limited access to education, and economic disparities pose significant challenges for girls.
Factors such as early marriage, female genital mutilation, and high school dropout rates further compound this strife, making it crucial for organizations like Mercy Corps to intervene.
Supported by the USAID-funded Feed the Future Kenya Livestock Market Systems (LMS), the initiative is making waves by empowering young girls, building their resilience, and offering them the hope of a brighter future.
Mercy Corps’ Girls Improving Resilience through Livelihoods (GIRL) program employs a holistic approach to addressing issues affecting 5 counties in Northern Kenya – Wajir, Turkana, Garissa, Isiolo, and Marsabit.
The nine-month program aims to improve quality of life and future prospects for adolescent girls aged 10 to 14 and 15 to 19 by providing them with essential life skills, education, and opportunities for income generation.
Sitting down to talk with several members, I quickly realized just how instrumental the group has been in already transforming the lives of girls in Northern Kenya.
During my visit, I had discussions with four girl groups on the empowerment program – Wanajmi, Dayah, Farida, and Bilan are among the many such networks in Wajir County.
Speaking to 22-year-old Farhiya Olat of the Farida Girls Group, she said:
‘In our village here at Bula, drug use and dropouts from school have really affected not only girls but also boys.
The LMS program offered us 150,000 shillings in the second installment and we managed to have our own shop, and others make dresses through tailoring and even beauty during weddings or important events…it’s been a blessing for young adolescents to be empowered over the years.’
As part of the GIRL program, girls receive education and life skills training that empowers them to make informed choices about their future. There’s mentoring for personal and professional areas including business development and financial literacy training models.