The Power of Educating a Girl

The other day I was watching a documentary from Half the Sky Movement about the girls from Kibera School for Girls and I could not stop radiating beams of joy. Seeing young girls so confident with themselves as they received an education sent me back down memory lane. Growing up in Kisumu, Kenya, life was difficult, but that did not hinder me from pursuing my goal of achieving an education.

My two brothers and I were raised by a single mum who did not have a stable source of income at the time. We depended primarily on my mother's parents -- my grandparents -- for support. Yet, despite the huddles, my mother made sure that I went to school. In my rural community, very few girls had the opportunity to see the gate of a school, in some cases because they were married off at a very early age and became mothers without the skills and education necessary to support their families.

I took my schooling very seriously because I knew I was enjoying a rare opportunity acknowledging vividly where I had come from. I was awarded a full scholarship to one of the best high schools in Kenya -- the Starehe Girls' -- for the whole four years. Being at Starehe Girls' was a dream come true and the opportunity came when I needed it most since my family did not have the money to send me to high school. I made the best out of the opportunity -- studying hard while also taking part in community work. I was inspired to do so by my former high school director, who told us at every assembly, "To whom much is given; much is required." I am not sure if every student took these words to heart, but it resonated so much with my life experiences; I had been blessed with so many generous men and women who had invested in my education.

I knew that I could be of help to my community in Kisumu by sharing my experiences and working with the many children who yearned for education. I started off by helping my friends and neighbors with their homework on a volunteer basis, and it was priceless. I was so happy to see their grades improve and the girls I mentored became more confident in themselves. I was so satisfied with the experience that I kept looking for more opportunities to give back.

Soon after, I got an opportunity with Mama Maria clinics -- an organization that provides healthcare to underserved communities -- helping teach their staff members computer skills and I knew this was an opportunity of a lifetime. I moved away from home to the community where Mama Maria is located, and by the end of the two months that I was there everyone knew the basics of using a computer, including how to start and shut it down and how to type and enter data. I knew I was impacting lives because most people in the community did not have these computer skills, and it would help them earn a better living.

The power of giving is very strong and it has always been part of my DNA. My hero has always been my grandmother. She would always go the extra mile to help people in my community even though we did not even have enough for ourselves. It's my opinion that when you do good without expecting anything in return you attract a lot of good from the world.

Last summer, I visited Northern Kenya with Sustainable Development For All -- an organization that uses innovative approaches to increase access to education for marginalized children from pastoralist communities who are denied a chance to attend school during the day because of cultural barriers -- where bright children, especially girls are required to herd livestock and perform other household chores during the day while their peers are in school. I was shocked to see young girls braving darkness, just for an opportunity to attend school through special night classes, offered by SDfA-Kenya, in conjunction with a local community partner. I tried to relate the challenges they faced to my own childhood, but they had even more challenges. By the end of that summer, I felt more energized to support girls' education as I realized that so many marginalized girls could be where I am today if only they were give the support and opportunity.

I am thankful to everybody who ever invested in my education because without it I would not be where I am today. I am currently a junior student at Carthage College studying Business Administration, Biology and Economics. I am also involved with different organizations advocating for women and girls empowerment through education and healthcare for women and children. All this has been possible because of my education. As Sheryl WuDunn says, "When you educate a girl, there is a triple effect that goes beyond what you would get from a normal investment... When you educate a girl, you educate a village."