It’s already 1am, and I will be up in another 6 hours to join the Comic Relief team and David Walliams at a Comic Relief funded project here in Kenya, to formally launch Red Nose Day 2015. Watch out for updates throughout the day on UK TV, although we will be behind the scenes capturing the launch. More on David later too, I think he would agree it is these ladies in my photo who need to be in the focus. In fact, when we asked him earlier why he gave up his weekend for Comic Relief, he said that when you have your time in the limelight, you want to give something back.
Today we had the chance to visit two projects. These girls are partaking in a football and mentoring project. It’s a photo that I think will forever remind me of their stories.
We watched Idah and Vivian, left and centre, in the yellow shirts above, play a game of football, their energy, and dedication was evident. The dedication of their adult coaches and mentors, who are 5 or so years older than the girls really lifts the girls.
After the match they were joined by Lavender, (in the blue skirt) and Sharmira and Lavender (in green dresses), and many other children to take part in a mentoring session. The girls and the female mentor spoke really openly about the physical and emotional changes of adolescence. A big issue for girls in schools here In Kenya, is being able to afford, or having access to, effective sanitary protection and so missing weeks of school. Mentoring helps them to overcome the obstacles to education.
Talking to these girls after the session it was clear that they face considerable challenges in day to day life. Shamira and Lavender were both still in free education, but access to school beyond 15-16 is not free and so many girls simply drop out. Many parents believe that only boys need an education. Idah is an orphan and has no one to pay her fees. Vivian’s father is missing and she has been adopted.
This football and mentoring project, one of 20 run locally, took place in a primary school where John, a Senior Teacher, told us that education had had a huge impact on schooling, In 2011 200 children dropped out of school, in 2014 only 5. Behaviour had changed, teenage pregnancy was a thing of the past, the children were more self aware and self disciplined. Enrolments at the school had risen.
I think you can see so much in the girls’ faces, the girls in green, still in free education seem care free, although they are most certainly not, and spoke very confidently about needing to defend their right to an education, The older girls are paving difficult paths. Idah seemed distant the whole time we spoke, so fired up and focussed on the pitch, so eloquent when she spoke, yet she seemed detached. Life with no parents, in an orphanage, with no one to invest in your schooling, must be frightening. Sharmira cried as she listened to Idah tell her story. Lavender too was quietly determined she wanted to learn and to become a teacher, but lstares into the distance, with a look of concern. Vivian on the other hand, looks ahead, as her adoptive father has told her, putting difficult things behind her and moving forwards.
I will never forget meeting these, confident, eloquent, empowered girls talking without embarrassment or apology about challenging topics for adolescents – menstruation, STIs, relationships, being female. the mentoring project gives them chance to talk, the football gives them confidence, status and a sense of belonging.
They are the future of #lastingchange and I can see them driving new attitudes about girls and education into the next generation and creating practical, but also cultural changes.
When we interviewed David Walliams earlier we asked how he felt about working with Comic Relief, he answered that he felt confident that Comic Relief fully understood the complexities of systems in Africa and that they know that issues are interconnected and find effective ways to build change. The project is now considering how it might be able to work with boys and parents to continue to change attitudes to girls’ education across the community. More funding will allow them to continue to support girls into high school.
David seemed slightly nervous about the launch, while he’s a television personality, he says he’s not a natural television host, but he believes passionately in the work of Comic Relief. We compared notes on how challenging it is to find the right words to convey to people exactly what your money does, and why it is important to keep donating.
I found my words and a picture, and tomorrow David will be sharing his – he won’t be working from a script, but choosing what to say and responding to those around him. Watch out for the live broadcasts. Lots more on our trip to come.
Watch out for these ladies, they know they are entitled to #lastingchange