Planting Seeds of Change to End Child Marriage
Joy was sold to a husband for twenty goats. Alone, she would have had no way out. But she was not alone.
Kenya Works has been planting seeds of change in communities like Joy's for nearly twenty years.
Joy is from the pastoral Kenyan village Musenke, in a region where gender inequality reduces girls' access to education and agency over their futures and trading adolescent daughters for a dowry is still an accepted practice.
Kenya Works began investing in Musenke in 2015 with a Makini Pads distribution. This timeline outlines the many touchpoints, investments and collaborations we have with the village, demonstrating the realities and also real progress, culminating in a defining moment for the village as it vows to end child marriage and commit to girls' equality and education.
Jump to the Timeline to see the engagement with Musenke that leads to this moment.
Join the campaign to #EndChildMarriage
In collapsed mode, you can see the long arc of progress. Expand a date to see and read more.
May 2015: Makini Pad Distribution in Musenke
The first opportunity Kenya Works had to meet girls in Musenke was in 2015 with a Makini Pad distribution. Makini Pads are our own reusable pad kits that we provide to at-risk girls along with adolescent empowerment training. targeted the region for Makini Pad distribution due to the high number of girls leaving school between primary and secondary school, and the corresponding high numbers for early marriage and teen pregnancy.
September 2015: VICODEC Begins Satellite Feeding Program at Musenke Primary School
At the Makini Pad distribution, the need for a school feeding program was identified. Our partner primary school, VICODEC agreed to develop and fund this program.
Fall 2021: Agreement to build Women’s Teachers Quarters
While visiting the community with joint Kenya Works and VICODEC team to follow up on the feeding program, there were few girls at Musenke Primary. Discussions began to bring a female teacher to the staff to build leadership role models for girls. Due to the remote location, teaching staff are provided housing at the school property, and additional quarters were needed to provide for a woman teacher. Kenya Works agreed to fund that as a strategic infrastructure need.
Feb 2021: Anti-FGM forum at Boarding School for Survivors of Child Marriage
Kenya Works partners with a new boarding school for survivors of child marriage to deliver our Anti-FGM forum, targeting girls from Musenke and another nearby community, Migori.
April 2021: Kenya Works Starts Partnership with the Boarding School to Sponsor 30 Area Girls
The school opens thirty slots for Kenya Works-sponsored students. Kenya works social workers reached out to Musenke's Headteacher for referrals of girls who had not joined secondary school and are at risk of being married off. The girls travel together to their new school. Kenya Works provides them all with bedding, uniforms, textbooks, and room and board as well as supporting the feeding program for the full school.
May 2021: Joy's sister Irene is enrolled in Kenya Works Student Sponsorship Program
Joy's sister Irene becomes one of our sponsored students, escaping the threat of child marriage. The girls are safe at their boarding school and have a community of shared experience of coming from hard-hit pastoral communities. While Kenyan law established girls' rights to education and agency, local customs that hold girls back and allow them to be traded as property prevail.
Dec 2021: Irene Learns Her Father and Brothers are Plotting to Marry Her Off While on School Break
The girls are safe at school, but questions about their safety arise when they return home during school breaks. Kenya Works trains them to have safety plans while at home. Irene was mindful of her safety plan when she learned that her father and two brothers planned to force her to marry against her will. She contacted Kenya Works social workers requesting assistance.
Dec 2021: Irene is Brought to Miale ya Tumaini Rescue Center
Kenya Works' experienced rescue team coordinated with child protection services to enable legal protections for Irene then went to Musenke with the proper documentation to bring her to our shelter Miale ya Tumaini, where she now chooses to live during all school breaks.
Feb 2022: Launch of Musenke Girls Club
With the women teachers' quarters construction underway, and deep connections with the girls at boarding school, Kenya Works sought to further strengthen the safety of the younger girls of the community. We hired a local girls' advocate, Emily, to create the Musenke Girls Club.
She holds weekly meetings discussing girls’ issues and giving girls a place to learn about and speak up for their rights as well as improve their educational opportunities. This is changing the narrative of early marriage in the area, allowing girls to envision a future built on education and equality.
Aug 24, 2022: Irene and Kenya Works Program Coordinator Caroline Gitau Appear on Womens View TV program Where Irene Shares Her Story
When TV producers contacted Kenya Works to invite our program coordinator on as an expert on working with adolescent girls and issues they face around Kenya, they inquired if there was a girl who would be willing to share her story. Caroline immediately thought of Irene as she has learned to use her voice on behalf of herself, her community and girls around the country.
See the three-part series at these links:
Sept 2022: The Musenke Girls Club Leader Notifies Kenya Works that Joy is Missing
Emily called Kenya Works to notify that she feared a local girl, Joy, had been abducted for marriage. As the Girls Club Leader, she keeps a watchful eye over the community and recognized the girl's absence as a concern.
Sept 2022: Irene Calls Caroline Gitau to Report Her Sister, Joy's Abduction
Then Irene called Kenya Works to report she feared her sister had been taken for marriage, the same child Emily had called about.
September 2022: Kenya Works Confirms the Girl Has Been Missing for Two Days
The rescue team travels to Musenke twice to bring Joy to safety. Both times, the girl has been hidden away and there is no one at the property.
At left, a Kenya Works team member and the local chief discuss options.
Below is a small house the team found on the property
September 2022: Kenya Works and VICODEC Coalition Arrive for a Scheduled Ceremony to Open the Women's Teachers' Quarters
With the missing child heavy on their minds, the Executive team arrives for a previously scheduled ceremony to officially open the new teachers' quarters. They privately confer with the Chief, pressing him with the ultimatum to find the girl or lose the school feeding program and any further support from Kenya Works or VICODEC.
September 2022: Joy is returned home
Within days of the ultimatum being made to the Chief, Kenya Works receives word that Joy has been returned to her home. The team returns to Musenke the same day to bring her to safety at our shelter, Miale ya Tumaini. There she is reunited with her sister Irene who is able to be home with her to help her settle in and begin healing from the trauma she has experienced.
September 22, 2022: Irene Teachers Joy How to Use our Makini Pads
It’s a great milestone for her as we realize that despite Joy being at risk of conceiving during the
forceful marriage, she is not pregnant.
September 23, 2022: Joy is enrolled as a new resident at Miale ya Tumaini
Joy receives her health check, orientation to the shelter and start of counselling sessions to help her through the trauma she has experienced and regain her power and autonomy.
September 26, 2022: Joy is enrolled in Kenya Works Education Sponsorship Program
She is being home-schooled at Miale ya Tumaini for the remainder of the term and will begin at
VICODEC, our preferred primary school partner, in January when the new school year begins.
September 29, 2022: Kenya Works Convenes a Stakeholders Meeting in Musenke
Recognizing, accepting and rebuking the act that took place in their village
Committing as a community to prioritize girls’ education as a means of both fostering personal rights and opportunity as well as community advancement
Reconvene regular barazas
Listen to the women, elders and youth openly stating frustration of being silenced trying to fight for the rights of girls
Kenya Works supported the progress made in the community, restating the village's commitments to girls' rights and adding expressly that the community must agree that forceful child marriage will not be tolerated. Kenya Works made clear that our support and investment in the community would end if these commitments are broken. The community recognized that the bad acts of a few individuals would lead to significant hardship for all, and that it is no longer an option to look the other way.
October 11, 2022: Day of the Girl Child | Kenya Works-Led Human Rights Training in Musenke
Kenya works marked the day of the girl at Musenke Primary School with 96 girls and 100 community stakeholders consisting of youth leaders, school committees, church leaders,
women leaders, chiefs, teachers and village elders. The forum included training on parenting and gender equality, emphasizing the parents' responsibility to safeguard their children's rights as well as instruction on Kenyan child protection laws.