Injustices that Hurt the Girl Child
“I wish I had somewhere else to go to, instead of my home, when schools close.” Betsy, one of the girls sponsored by Caring Hearts and Hands of Hope CHHH), uttered that sentence on January 25, 2013, with a voice that still makes me sad. Her mother’s story had already made the audience cry. It is the way her mother’s head sunk (left photo), with a despair only experienced by a mother who has nothing to offer a child with potential. Such despair resurfaces often as I meet girls and women like Betsy and her mother.
The words unearthed bitter memories of how her own potential was unjustly squelched because she was born a girl. When Betsy’s mother was in elementary school, she studied hard like all Kenyan children, in order to pass the 8th level grade exams. Her performance was exceptional and she was admitted at Moi Kabarak High School.
It’s hard for me write this, but her father, although capable of paying tuition, refused to educate her. My own mother suffered the same fate. In her youth, this was a common and generally accepted decision for families with limited resources. They didn’t invest in girls’ education. It was reasoned that, a girl’s education would benefit the family of her future husband. But that was in 1940s.
The one room house (see below) shared by 7 children, mother and grandmother Betsy’s mother married a man who provided basic needs for his growing family. He unfortunately died and left his widow with seven children, Betsy being the first-born. That was the beginning of a future of emptiness.
By God’s grace, Betsy’s potential was known by her second grade teacher, who also knew the family’s financial woes. That teacher, a member of CHHH Kenya committee, contacted me after Betsy passed her 8th grade exams and had been languishing at “home” with no hope of ever joining high school. A caring sponsor from Eagle, Idaho, paid her freshman year’s tuition, $500 that covers uniform, room and board, shoes, books and school supplies.
“Why would a child not want to go home?” is a question that occupied my thoughts until I asked and received pictures of a one-room, mud-thatched structure with obviously rotting and leaking corrugated iron roofing, a structure that housed the seven children, their mother and their grandmother. The Cloverdale Church of God, Boise, raised $2,500 to build the family a house with two bedrooms and a living room and outdoor pit latrine.
My son, Kithetheesyo Muli (far left in the photo), Beth Schaefer, Jackie Moran and Carrie Barton (sponsors of CHHH) and I visited Betsy’s family in July, mainly to see the progress of the house construction.
A few yards from Betsy’s unfit–for- human dwelling, was a well-fenced compound with a big modern house, separate kitchen and other small houses and flourishing trees. It is the home of Betsy’s uncle who was her mother’s classmate in 8th grade. She had better grades, but their father chose to educate him, because of his gender. He is a teacher. Betsy’s mother is a beggar. That is when my heart sank as Betsy’s mother’s head had when she heard her own child’s wish—not wanting to go home.
Caring Hearts and Hands of Hope is changing the world, one child at time. We are currently raising $1.3 million to purchase a nine acre high school facility for 240 girls. It has eight completed classrooms, a dorm that accommodates 220 students, 20 showers, 20 toilets, and 14 outside pit latrines, 2013 school bus (52 seater), completed houses for two teachers, a temporary kitchen and a dining hall, a three acres sports field, one acre garden, three sources of electricity (solar, generator, hydro) and several water tanks and a borehole.
Our high school girls will now be able to study without interruptions, have adequate food, counseling and guidance and youth development programs. We will increase, by more than 50%, the number of students we support with the current amount of sponsorship. This is because there will be no unexpected tuition and fee increases.