Belinda was 16 years old when she dropped out of school due to an unexpected pregnancy, seeing herself as a disappointment to her family and community. Today, she’s an emerging leader for women’s rights in Kenya and beyond.
In Kenya, poverty is one of the leading contributors to the country’s high teenage pregnancy rate: nearly one in every five adolescent girls in the country has either given birth or is pregnant with her first child. Early pregnancy can completely change a girl’s social standing and future prospects, particularly because so many young mothers drop out of school.
“In our culture, we believe that a girl is meant to get married, get children, so there is no need to get an education. We want to change this attitude,” Belinda said. “NIGEE took me back to school. Now I’m working.”
Nyanza Initiative for Girls Education and Empowerment (NIGEE) empowers girls through quality education and vocational training, which sets them up for independent and fulfilled adulthoods.
“When I share my story, their [members of the community] attitude towards girls do change. They do realize that she has the potential to do something that a man can also do,” Belinda said.
“It was very shameful to me to be a young mother. But today I don’t feel any shame. With the education that NIGEE gave me, I found my voice.”
NIGEE’s guidance, coupled with Belinda’s resilience, has molded her into an active leader and role model to girls in her community. Recognized by the With and For Girls Collective, Belinda was invited to attend the Human Rights Funders Network Conference in Mexico City in November 2018.
Photo of Belinda participating in Smashing the Patriarchy: Leading and Learning from Girls Activists at the Human Rights Funders Network Conference. Photo provided by the With and For Girls Collective.
Alongside Belinda, a dozen young female activists from all corners of the world came together to promote girl-led change. The conference provided a platform for these rising leaders to share their realities and be heard.
During the conference, Belinda shared her struggles of accessing education as a teen mom, and how the needs go further than the classroom. “Our need is beyond education. It is only us, because most of us are teen mothers, we have that experience. We finished our secondary education, but it was a tough thing.”
Watch this video to learn more about the conference and hear the voices of young women like Belinda who are actively breaking through injustices facing girls across the world.
Belinda’s story is part of Global Fund for Children’s Role Model Series, featuring inspiring youth who are standing up for children’s rights around the world.