Friday, November 6, 2015

Siaya Remains Firm Inspite Of Tough Times

Inspite of difficulties experienced countrywide as a result of the mammoth teacher's strike, Girl Power Clubs Siaya County remained resolute and used every moment to get involved in projects and educating the community. Here is our report:

August:  There were no direct Girl Power activities in August as all schools had closed for the holidays. However, the Parish Games organized by the Catholic Church were held during the month. All youth in the ward were involved and the games proved very popular in the community who made time to come and watch their favorite teams. Many of our Girl Power members participate actively in sports and so were an integral part of the various teams. The Girl Power coach Florence Owino was in great demand to help coach some of the teams. The winners were Sigomre Parish team followed by the Ukwala Parish team. Twelve girl teams were involved in the games playing soccer and netball. 
All public schools stayed closed throughout September and the first week of October owing to a countrywide teachers’ strike. In September Girl Power activities took place in only one school. This was Oasis Academy which is privately owned. Interestingly some of the parents decided to move their children to Oasis Academy over the strike period on a temporary basis.  Many of the younger girls at the Academy should interest in joining the sporting activities and so were included. It was fun times all round as the girls covered issues such as personal hygiene and communication skills. Flo and I also visited the entrepreneurship projects being run by Girl Power members at Sigomre Primary, Ugana Primary and Asango Primary. We noted that the girls were taking care of them well despite the teachers strike.
Public schools reopened in the second week of October after the teachers strike collapsed. The challenge that Girl Power faced at first was having space to carry on the program in the overcrowded curriculum that most schools adopted in order to catch up with the syllabus after the strike. The earlier demands by some patrons that they be “motivated” to carry on with the Girl Power initiative was heightened by the fact that their salaries for the month of September were withheld by the Teachers Service Commission. This was especially so in Tingare Secondary School and at Uloma Secondary School, whose patrons said they did not plan any further involvement in the Girl Power program as they need “motivation” to do so.  The Ywaya Primary School is however back on board with a bang, even ensuring the selection of a senior female teacher to be the new patron. Teacher Rose is a breath of fresh air as she understands the challenges faced in threat area of Sigomre Ward, chief among them being high primary schoolgirl dropout rates due to early marriage, pregnancy and cultural norms. This year alone there were four dropouts from the school, one of whom was a Girl Power Club member. Teacher Rose wishes to be included in any future capacity building training.
Sigomre Secondary Girl Power Club stood out once again, with their members being invited to participate in the Mashujaa Day (Heroes Day) activities. They gave a great rendition of their now famous Girlpower Rap song to tumultuous applause by the guests who included the Sub-County Assistant Commissioner and ministerial staff, the Sub-County Administrator, the Chief, assistant chiefs, police officers, miji kumi chairpersons and the public. The Sub-County Assistant Commissioner asked the area Girl Power program assistant Maria Okong’o to tell the gathering what the program was doing in the area and its importance. Members of the public who spoke later were of the opinion that this was a great way to ensure that the girl child benefited from education, sports and leadership skills. They demanded that the program be spread to other schools in the ward as its positive benefits were quite clear in the short period it had existed in the area.
Also during the last week of October the Girl Power endline survey was carried out. The data will be analyzed by the head office in Nairobi.

Way Forward
Both Uloma and Tingare are in an area where both girls and the community would be influenced positively through the Girl Power programme. The demands by patrons for “personal motivation” should be nipped in the bud; the beneficiaries are the girls and the community in which they live. The parents and girls in the area wish the program to continue and so we need to remove leadership control from such teachers. One way of doing this is by building the capacity of the girls to lead so they can run Girl Power themselves with the help of the project assistants and skilled volunteer mentors /advocates who share the Girl Power vision. It is our hope that the Girl Power Workshop for regional coordinators to be held this month will come up with ideas to actualize this.

Maria Okongo


Some of the patrons in Busia County Girl Power Clubs, have, through the letters to us, addressed made observations since the initiation of the program in their schools.

Akadoor Primary school’s patron says the term was very challenging due to the teachers strike. The busy school schedules after the strike did not allow them to do a great deal. She also requests for assistance with net ball balls.

Katakwa Primary school’s patron Sarah Omudeck, says they had great time learning about HIV and AIDs, first aid and personal hygiene. She also informed us of some of the challenges faced by the girls. They include lack of sanitary towels, payment of school levy, they do not have games kits and play materials like balls.

Katakwa secondary’s patron Ebu Irene is grateful for the support we gave them. She adds that the challenge she faces with the girls is they lack sanitary towels and she is forced to buy them for the girls every now and then. The girl’s toilet also fell down due to the rains and they are asking for our assistance on this.

Changara secondary schools patron Rono Nelly says the girls have maintained the enthusiasm they showed when the club was initiated. As a club they are focusing on group income generation activities(vegetable farming), individual income generating activities(poultry keeping), holiday soccer and volley ball camps , updating members profile(that will be availed to us ) and peer education and counseling.

Despite this they are facing the following challenges: girls not attending school due to lack of fees, menstruation and early pregnancies, most girls lack basic requirements both personal and academic, they also lack good training facilities to enhance their skills in soccer and volleyball, majority have family problems is they are orphan, single parented or have been abandoned to stay with their grandparents.

She suggests that, by providing sanitary towels, building the girls a toilet and providing clean water, sponsoring some girls to attend soccer and volley ball clinics, inviting guest speakers and finally getting sponsors for the girls we will meet come of these needs

The beauty of this letter is we get  insight of areas that need attention  site. Issues like lack of pads and basic needs can be met by initiating entrepreneurship projects which some schools have already started. We may have to look for partners who will support us to meet other needs like building the fallen toilet for the school.