It is time for us all to empower girls – and to invest in a future that believes in their agency, leadership and potential

Today, the world commemorates the 10th anniversary of the International Day of the Girl Child under the theme “Our time is now – Our rights, Our future.” It is a day that is celebrated every year on October 11 to empower girls and amplify their voices. It focuses on creating more opportunities for girls to have their voices heard on the global stage.

Around the world, it is time to end gender stereotypes, to show that girls can also lead, and to ensure every female child is given an opportunity to study and accomplish their dreams. It is time to forge equal rights among girls. Girls around the world are still facing unprecedented challenges to their education.

Up to 10 million girls will be at risk of child marriage if no immediate interventions are put in place. The profound effects of the COVID-19 pandemic put girls at higher risk of early marriages due to a combination of economic shocks, school closures, and interruptions in reproductive health services.

Over the years, Bridge Kenya has been among one of the organizations forging for gender equality and women empowerment in its school systems.
The Bridge Kenya model pursues a teaching philosophy that gives girls a voice, creates role models, and empowers the community at large to value gender equality and believe that the future is female.

The organization implements innovative approaches such as giving girls female leadership positions even in co-curricular activities such as football, science clubs, and debate. This motivates all pupils including girls to behave and work hard. Bridge teachers are trained to ensure active participation in class activities for both girls and boys. One of the ways is giving pupils equal opportunities to lead a class session or a class group.

This carefully designed approach enables girls to succeed. These approaches have been affirmed to work by the tens of thousands of girls who come from some of the most impoverished communities, and are currently doing well in secondary schools, universities, and beyond. It is an approach that has proven to create opportunities for success in the near future.

                                Bridge girls are beating all odds to succeed

Bridge girls have broken gender barriers and stereotypes and gone ahead to prove what they are capable of. For 7 consecutive years, they have outperformed the national average and are currently attending top secondary schools and universities, in Kenya and abroad.

Most girls who studied at Bridge come from communities where finishing primary school is such a big milestone. With fee challenges, early marriages, child labor and few people to look up to most of them quickly give up on their dreams. Yet, due to the strong foundations set by teachers across Bridge schools, Bridge girls are attending national schools that would have previously been unimaginable.

Florence Kwamboka and Joyce Kemunto both from Bridge Kwa Njenga, Nairobi County were the second-best performing Bridge girl’s in the 2021 KCPE exams with a score of 401 marks. Joyce was selected to join Alliance High School, one of the best-performing girls’ schools in the country while Florence was selected to join Nyabururu girls’ High School.

Florence is set on becoming an architect in the near future because she enjoys drawing and buildings just fascinate her.

“I have grown up in informal settlements basically all my life, coming from a community where you can never be sure if a building could come crumbling down anytime inspires me to be an architect and start from fixing where I grew up I want to champion for the creation of better buildings. “Says Florence.

Joyce on the hand has always aspired to become a Neurosurgeon.

“I feel people incur heavy expenses going to India for treatment and I would love to be one of the few neurosurgeons in the country. One of the best things I feel I can give to my community is coming back to them as one of the best Neurosurgeons in the country. Ben Carson the writer of think big has always been one of my biggest role models.” She remarks.

Looking at the 2021 KCPE statistics Bridge recorded a gender parity in the number of boys and girls who performed well in the KCPE exams. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the success of pupils like Florence and Joyce is evidence enough that the Bridge Kenya home learning innovation benefited learners by engaging them during the period when all learning institutions had been closed.

A recent study by Professor Michael Kremer of the University of Chicago found that the Bridge teaching methodology guarantees gender parity for both boys and girls. According to the study, pupils starting from the lowest learning levels gained the most, with girls making the same leap in learning as boys.

Bridge Girls are chasing their dreams in Universities both in Kenya and Abroad.

Joyce Katana is a Bridge alumnus Joyce who got a scholarship to go study at Avenues High school in New York. With her hard work and determination, Joyce is currently at the start of her university journey in Kenyon College in Ohio.

“I am right at the start of my university journey here in the United States Kenyon College in Ohio, and I’m really looking forward to it because it’s a new chapter of my life and a step closer to achieving my goals. My advice to other students would be to wake up every single day with a goal because dreams without goals are nothing. Reach your goals and they will help you reach your dream.” She says

Melvin Kanaiza is a 2016 Bridge Alumni who scored 374 marks in the KCPE Exams. She later got a scholarship to go study at St Anne’s Belfield School, Virginia for her high school education. Currently, Melvin is a student at St. Lawrence University in New York hoping to major in Economics because of her love for Mathematics.

“Joining University for me in the USA is a really big deal for me, I have learned about so many different cultures, and interacted with people from all walks of life and I believe the skills and exposure I have acquired over time will be crucial in my future aspirations.” Says Melvin.

Cynthia Meikan who is currently pursuing a degree in Medicine and Surgery at the University of Nairobi is a 2016 Bridge Alumnus from Kajiado County. She scored a perfect 379 mark in the KCPE Exams.

“My passion for health and medicine, and my desire to bring change to the health department drove me to pursue a course in Medicine. Coming from a pastoral community where people barely have access to good medical health care, I hope that one day I will be able to bring the change they are in dire need of. ” Says Cynthia

“I am focused on becoming a doctor and I’m on a pre-med track in college. As I learn more, I have become more interested in public health and the idea of improving public health systems around the world and opening up the kind of healthcare people can receive,” she adds.

                                           Time to stand up for girls

According to UNICEF, COVID-19 has worsened existing burdens on girls around the world and worn away important gains made over the last decade. With adversity, however, comes resourcefulness, creativity, tenacity, and resilience. The world’s 600 million adolescent girls have shown time and time again that given the skills and the opportunities, they can be the changemakers driving progress in their communities, building back stronger for all, including women, boys, and men.

Girls are ready for a decade of acceleration forward. It is time for us all to stand accountable – with and for girls – and to invest in a future that believes in their agency, leadership, and potential.