Rita, 24, from Kenya.
Apr 1 2015

Changing mindsets on educating girls

Rita, 24, from Kenya.

Rita, 24, from Kenya.

By Regina Mburu, communications liaison for Unbound in Africa

Twenty-four-year-old Rita recently graduated with a bachelor of arts in gender studies, sociology and political science from a renowned university in Kenya. She has worked hard to reach what she considers one of her greatest achievements, despite the many challenges she faced growing up.

Rita was born and raised in a remote area of central Kenya outside of Meru. Her father was polygamous, and her mother, Beatrice, was the third wife. She grew up with her 17 siblings. Rita’s mother worked as a teacher and her stepmothers were housewives.

In the traditional African setting, a man is allowed to take as many wives as he wants and sire as many children as he is able. A man’s worth was measured by the number of wives he had and the children borne to him.

“It was not easy growing up in a mixed family,” Rita said. “When my father passed on, life became unbearable.

“My mother was the only one working,” she continued. “As a teacher, she earned barely enough to take care of all of us. Food, clothes and other basic needs did not come by easy, let alone school fees and school supplies.”

In many rural communities in Kenya, educating a girl child is not deemed necessary. Many parents prefer to enroll their sons in school, leaving the girl behind to help the mother take care of the household.

“My mother, being a teacher, knew the importance of education to both the boy child and girl child, so she did her best to see us go to school,” said Rita.

With the small income Beatrice earned, it was a huge responsibility taking care of 18 children. Many times they were chased away from school for failing to pay the school fees required. The burden on Beatrice’s shoulders was becoming unbearable.

Then Beatrice learned about the Unbound sponsorship program through a friend at the local church where she volunteered. The friend knew the financial burden she was carrying and suggested she find assistance for one of her children through the Unbound program.

As a sponsored child, Rita had her education fully catered for.

“My performance in school greatly improved,” Rita said happily. “I was no longer stressed about getting chased away from school. This made me concentrate on my studies.”

Rita is a role model in her community. Being a girl who has gone to university is something everyone admires. Mothers in her community encourage their daughters to emulate her.

“I am humbled when some of [the mothers] call me over to advise their girls and encourage them to work hard in school,” Rita said. “In my community, girls have been looked down upon for many years. This trend is, however, changing. I am glad I am one of the pacesetters for the girls in my community.”

Rita’s dream is to be an activist for gender equality or a social worker. She mentors girls in the Unbound program and in her community.

“It gives me great pleasure to talk to the young, especially girls,” Rita shared. “I relate to them and I am honored to be in a position to mentor them.”

Rita is grateful for the support she received from her sponsor, which helped her achieve her academic goals, and hopes to do the same for others.

“I would like to be in a position to assist a child in my community,” she said. “To see them achieve their goals, just like my sponsor did for me. When I am able to do that, it will be my greatest joy and accomplishment.”

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3 thoughts on “Changing mindsets on educating girls”

  1. we have a non-profit called Educate Girls Globally
    Stories like this one are the reason we continue to work for girls and women.
    You are an inspiration not just in your community but in the world.
    Serena and Lawrence Chickering

  2. My respect for Rita!

    How great that you are a role model in your community! Certainly many girls in Meru will follow after your example.

    Congratulations, and may God bless the works of your hands.

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