I suppose it is every parent’s intention to give their children the best advantages in life. In modern life, education is one of these great advantages a parent can give to a kid. However, in Kenya for families that make do with barely enough income to sustain the family, parents are forced to play favoritism with their children.
More often than not, families that have multiple numbers of children that they need to take to school, but they can only support one or few of the children. Parents almost always pick to educate their boys instead of their girls. This situation is not just unique to Kenya; it is replicated across all other African and developing world countries.
Well, parents try to rationalize this in all sorts of ways. Some argue why should they spend so much educating their girls, only for them to be married off into another family and become part of the in-law’s family. Benefiting the in-laws with the all the education her parents worked so hard to pay school fees. Other parents go as far as viewing their girls as assets and means of acquiring wealth. The girls will be married off, the in-laws will pay dowry in the form of cash, cattle, etc. The dowry could then be sold to pay for school fees for the boys in the family or find some way to help the family.
Whatever the reasons brought forth, one thing remains for sure young girls progress is almost always secondary to the young boys well-being. These gender-biases is not just in Kenya but in many developing countries and low-income families around the world.
During the U.S President Obama visit to Nairobi, Kenya during the 6th Global Entrepreneurship Summit held over the weekend. He gave a tough speech on the girl child education and its benefits not just at the family level, but also at the national level.
“Any nation that fails to educate its girls or maximize their potential is doomed to fall behind in the global economy,” said Obama. He also took a swipe at the long-running tradition where women were viewed as second-class citizens. It has been an accepted norm for the womenfolk to be ‘disciplined’ through beatings and denial of opportunities for self-advancements.
“Just because something is part of your past doesn’t make it right. It doesn’t mean it defines your future,” said Obama. He also added that it was not acceptable that in the 21st century, young girls are still being married off and subjected to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). However, this practice has long been outlawed in Kenya.
Indeed in most rural homes, the girls of the homestead are designated to the kitchen work and do most of the house chores. When they come of age (debatable) they are married off in the hope the dowry will be used to either sustain the home or empower the boys. The girl-child would be a valuable asset, especially if the parents are facing difficulties in meeting the needs of the family and empowering the boy-child.
Obama said that he had successfully lobbied for funds surpassing $1 billion from banks, philanthropists, foundations and the US Government. Half of this money will go towards empowering women and the youth. The President reiterated that when you educate a girl, you educate the nation. Studies have shown educated women are more likely to have more educated children (including the girl-child), and they are typically better at investing back into their family’s well-being.