Skills-building clubs are helping girls living in the Dadaab refugee camp speak out against violence, build confidence and help their peers.
The Lutheran World Federation, with support from CLWR, manages education in the Hagadera and Kambioos sections of the camp, where they’ve initiated these clubs to build girls’ confidence and self-esteem through life-skills training. There are currently six girls clubs in Hagadera with a membership of 300. Girls participate in activities including peer counselling, peer mentorship and poetry writing.
As a result girls have started speaking out on violence. For example, girls participating in the clubs helped a hearing-impaired girl who was sexually assaulted seek support from a teacher, who subsequently reported the crime to the authorities.
“We are happy that we have learned so much from the girls clubs,” says Fatuma Abdi Sheikh, the chairlady of the Central Primary School girls club. “We are able to speak out on issues that affect girls. My friends and I participated in a media campaign through Dadaab FM, where we encouraged parents to take our colleagues who are not in school to school.”
Fatuma, who is currently the head girl of Central Primary School, attributes her election to that position to the leadership skills she learned in the girls clubs. “I used to be very shy when it comes to talking. However, sessions during girls club meetings have really improved my confidence. I encourage girls who have not joined to join, as they will benefit.”
It is expected the clubs will increase school enrollment for girls living in Dadaab, as they increase girls’ empowerment and contribute to community awareness about the benefits of education. Right now, girls’ participation in education is about half the participation of boys. In Hagadera, the number of boys in school in December 2012 was 9226 while the number of girls was only 5754.
A number of factors contribute to low enrollment. Insecurity and general violence are threats to girls, making it less likely they will venture out to school. Early marriages, teenage pregnancies and female genital mutilation are common and harmful practices and often prevent girls from attending school.
The Dadaab refugee camp is located in northeastern Kenya and is home to over 450,000 people. Most are from Somalia, where drought-related food shortages and fighting between the armed al-Shabaab group and forces associated with the transitional government of Somalia have made it unsafe.