Supporting Girls to Stay in School by Building Capacities of Local NGOs in Kenya

Batula Fayo Rasa, a young woman in northern Kenya, is the sixth child in a family of 11. Her parents are local farmers whose financial hardship made it unlikely that she would have a chance to go to school. Their community does not prioritize girls’ education. When Batula completed Grade 6, it felt like a miracle to her.

But at age 16, Batula faced a dead end. She would have to leave school and get married. In her community, like many in northern Kenya, girls typically leave school when they enter puberty, and many girls marry at an early age.

A teacher sits in front of a chalkboard in a classroom.

Then came good news: Thanks to her stellar grades, she was awarded a scholarship for secondary school studies from the Merti Integrated Development Program, a local NGO.

“I was so happy!” Batula said. “For the first time, I had hope I could be in school for a whole term without being sent home for lack of school fees.” As one of many girls receiving tuition scholarship from Merti, she doubled down on her study efforts, working for a better life. Merti has awarded scholarships to over 350 vulnerable girls in northern Kenya.

For years, Merti has supported girls’ education from secondary school to university. Then in 2017, the group faced a funding crisis when key international donors ended their donations. The organization would have to close its doors, and hundreds of girls would face a harder future.

As a last-ditch effort, Merti’s leaders took part in a training where they gained hands-on skills for raising resources locally. The training by the Yetu Initiative, a partnership between the Aga Khan Foundation and USAID for building capacity of local organizations to raise Kenyan resources for Kenyan needs, marked a turning point.

“The training was an eye-opening experience. We are now able to raise resources from within the community to sustain our project,” said Jedidah, Merti’s Program Officer. Now Merti can support young women’s schooling for many years to come.

Batula now teaches at a local primary school. “I’m so empowered by the education,” she says. “Education has changed me.”

With support from Yetu, Merti has grown deeper roots locally and young women like Batula can lead their communities toward a brighter future.

A teacher points to words on a chalkboard in front of a classroom of students.

“I’m so empowered by the education. Education has changed me.”

AKF and USAID’s Yetu Initiative continues to work with Kenyan organizations to meet Kenyan needs. Read about how Hope Raisers, a member of Yetu Initiative’s community of practice, is using graffiti to share critical guidelines on how to slow the spread of COVID-19 in communities with limited access to information.

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