Teen pregnancies and dropping out of school are among the most challenges facing girls in the Ogiek community, the women say.
They link these social problems to poverty and long walking distances to school.
“The girls are struggling with lack of sanitary towels among other needs,” said Agnes Ngobiroit, a Mariashoni resident during a two-day sensitization workshop for the Ogiek women in Nakuru.
“Then they are to walk many kilometers before they arrive school. This has predisposed them to teen relationships and friendships with elderly men as they seek to meet their needs. Unfortunately, they have ended up with unplanned pregnancies pushing them out of school.”
Hellen Sanau,a resident of Sasimwani,Narok County presents challenges facing Ogiek girls.
Girls dropping out of school due to early pregnancies has become so prevalent in Sasimwani in Narok County,said Hellen Sanau.
“Girls are being lured into relationships along the way to school. There are no schools closer to homes,” she said.
“The schools are as a far as 20 kilometres away. It becomes so easy to corner a girl who is finding it distressing accessing education and whose parents are unable to fully provide for her.”
The women expressed concern over continued marginalization if the girls failed to acquire quality education due to the existing hurdles.
They also identified culture which denies girls some preferential needs such as proper housing,female genital mutilation,early marriages, reproductive tract infections, overworking and improper nutrition as among the problems hindering progress of Ogiek girls.
To address these challenges, the women suggested empowerment of women financially as a trickle down solution to the girls owing to the fact that they understand their needs and will be capacitated to meet them.
Establishing schools within a 2 kilometer radius from homes would also act as proactive mechanism to curbing teen pregnancies and dropping out of school.
Lucy Mulenkei,Executive Director of the Indigenous Information Network(IIN) encouraged the women to form self-help groups to be able to upscale their financial reservoirs and assist the girls solve their problems to accessing basic necessities.
“You have to take the lead as women to help these girls address their challenges. You must also be on the fore front in sensitizing the community on importance of educating the girls and protecting them from the harmful cultural practices,” she said.
Eunice Chepkemoi,the Gender Officer at the Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program(OPDP) advised the women to engage men in creating awareness on offering education opportunities to Ogiek girls.
“We must involve men in all levels of sensitization drives because they hold key stakes in the community.We need their support to move otherwise all will be in vain if they are excluded,” she said.
The women who attended the workshop held on 27 and 28 July were drawn from Nakuru,Narok,Kericho and Uasin Gishu counties.
They were sensitized on the components of Ogiek’s human rights case whose ruling was made on May 26 at the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights and their role in its implementation.
Women follow keenly during the sensitization workshop held in Nakuru on 27 and 28 July.
They were also educated on the rights of women as provided in the local, regional and international laws, conventions and treaties.