DRY BONES AND DROPS OF HOPE

A DRIVE THROUGH GARISSA TOWN deep into Lagdera and Balambala engulfs you in a sense of despondency. Acres of land filled with nothing but dying shrubs and dried dams stretch beyond what the eye can see. As the wind blows, giving you a reprieve from the heat and scorching sun, it carries with it a blanket of dust and sand. A clear indication of how bad the drought has become.

The villages are littered with rotten carcasses and dried bones from animals that used to reflect a community’s identity. Homesteads that were once full of life, have been reduced to chunks of bare land and abandoned makeshift homes. Families that once sat together for a meal are missing a father. The men have been forced to leave their families behind, seeking pasture to save the remaining animals.

This is the reality of life for thousands of people living in communities across Northern Kenya. Desperation has slowly crept in as they struggle to survive and hold on to hope, for a future that seems so bleak.
“We have not seen a drop of rain, in two years,” says Ebla Ali, who has lived in Balambala for 15 years. “We have never experienced anything like this, our animals have died and even water for drinking has become difficult to get.”

Her children no longer go to school in the afternoon as they have to fetch water from a lager in a dried riverbed close to her home. She wants them to study and to attend school, but the choice is bleak: survival today or her children’s future. “We have to choose between school or dying from lack of water.”

Ebla’s story is not unique, she represents thousands of women living in Garissa who are forced to make the same heartbreaking decision every day. How does a mother give hope to her children, when she has just watched the last of their goats succumb to starvation?

Ebla may have run out of hope, but she and many mothers across Northern Kenya remain resilient. A little boost has sparked their hope and is helping them navigate this difficult time.

Over the past few months, FCA Kenya has supported over 600 homesteads in Garissa and Marsabit County through cash transfers of 63 euros, equivalent to about KES. 7,600 – 7,800. This has enabled families to buy food, water, and some, school supplies for their children. The first cycle ran from May to July of 2022, and the second cycle in August, expected to run until the end of the year.
To ease the communities water storage problem, we mobilized individual Kenyans and local corporations, through our local fundraising initiative #TogetherforGarissa to support the distribution of water storage equipment to households. We partnered with UNICEF, Coca-Cola Beverages Africa and a few Kenyans of goodwill who have supported us to distribute over 5,600 20-litre jerrycans and 3,600 buckets to families in Garissa and Marsabit County.

Women fetching water from a makeshift shallow well. Photo by Kevin Ochieng

While the jerrycans ensure the communities can store clean water for drinking and household use, there’s a need to distribute water tanks to ensure the water is accessed hygienically.

The power of ubuntu cannot be overemphasized. Every support, no matter how small, is invaluable. It has taken concerted effort and support from Kenyans of goodwill for us to reach over 70,000 lives. Imagine how much more could be done if each of us gave a little.

When we support, we are not only giving access to water, but we are also giving drops of hope that are restoring the dignity and livelihood of communities. We are transforming the lives of a generation that needs to be in school, to find the means of breaking the cycle of poverty that plagues their environment.

Hopefully, the coming of the short rains signifies a new dawn and the end of the drought. That it washes away the dry bones, prepares the ground to nurture new life, and restores laughter in the homesteads.

Until then, please help us reach 100,000 people by donating to:

M-pesa Paybill:4086125

Account Name: Finn Church Aid Kenya

Your help matters. Your donation counts.


Text: Faith Inyanchi

FCA Kenya responds to drought in Garissa through emergency cash transfer

Family pose for photographer in Garissa, Kenya.
Fatuma Garane is a widow and lives in Balambala, Garissa County, in Kenya. She has eight children. “This drought has affected my family greatly. I had goats and a donkey, and they died because of the lack of food. The donkey was the one that was my only source of income as I used to do business with it. I cannot say that I take a meal twice or once a day as it is not easy to get food here, so we only eat when we get the food. There are days we go without eating. Life is tough here. Sometimes the food we get here is rice and beans.” PHOTO: BRIAN OTIENO/FCA

Wells, water pans, and rivers are drying up in Garissa County. Many homesteads are without food and livelihood-providing livestock. Cattle have either died in the protracted drought or migrated away with household heads in search of pasture.

GARISSA HAS lost 40% of its livestock with families finding it difficult to survive as they lose their main source of income. The market for livestock paints the same gloomy picture, with goats being sold for as low as Kes 2000 due to the poor condition of the animals and generally depressed markets .  Pastoralists are losing their main source of livelihoods.

“Here, people and animals fight to survive in the face of this year’s particularly vicious food and water crisis. Not only is there a scarcity of food and water produced, but people also don’t have money to buy it,” said Fatuma Garane, a resident of Mbalambala, who was visited by the FCA Kenya team.

“We are glad that the money we received from FCA Kenya is helping us buy water and some food though food is costly,” says Fatuma.

A truck.
A water truck bringing relief in the form of fresh drinking water in Garissa. PHOTO: ALEXON MWASI/FCA

In April 2022, Finn Church Aid (FCA) granted Kes 24,600,000 for a humanitarian relief operation in Kenya and Somalia. Since then, FCA Kenya has provided cash transfers to 350 households in Lagdrera Sub-County and 250 households in Balambala Sub-County to enable families to buy water and food and cater to their children’s education needs. In addition, they’re able toreconstruct their houses, buy goats to restock, and pay their medical fees. Each household has received Kes 15480, transferred in two installments to the right holders’ MPESA number

“No water means no food”

Mohamed Korone, a Maalimin resident, described the effects of the drought,

“Everything in Lagdera and Balambala revolves around water. No water means no food. No food means people are weak and cannot work. Children also cannot go to school when parents do not have a source of livelihood and also suffer malnutrition. Animals cannot survive without water”. 

Dead cow lies on the ground.
The severe drought kills cattle which means loss of livelihood for people too in Garissa.

FCA Kenya has already put in place short-term measures to address this crisis, such as giving unconditional cash to families. This will assist in purchasing some household needs and reviving local markets.  This is only temporary, as Garissa residents walk an average of 8.3 kilometres in search of water. They sometimes buy water for Kes 15-40, whereas other rural communities buy water for Kes 5.

FCA post-distribution monitoring for the first cycle of the multipurpose cash assistance in May 2022 revealed that 13% of the recipients spent Kes 2207 on water, accounting for 28.25% of the monthly multipurpose cash assistance. Food was the most pressing need, accounting for Kes 4413 for 80 percent of the households supported. The 600 most vulnerable households will receive the final tranche of cash assistance in July 2022 to help further mitigate the effects of the drought, which is predicted to further worsen.


Text: Elizabeth Oriedi

Free school meals mean better grades for refugees in Kenya

A young Kenyan boy sits at a desk in a classroom.
Phillip Loturi John was the highest scoring student in all of FCA’s schools in Kenya. Photo: Elizabeth Oriedi/FCA

Daily meals provided to refugee students in Kenya help them to excel.

PHILLIP LOTURI JOHN wants to become President of South Sudan. The 15-year-old is a student at Morning Star Primary School, one of the six schools that Finn Church Aid (FCA) operates in Kalobeyei, northern Kenya. Philip scored 391 on his Kenya Certificate for Primary Education (KCPE), making him the best overall student at any of FCA’s schools in Kalobeyei.

Located in the Turkana region, an arid area that suffers frequent drought, local people live together with refugees in Kalobeyei. While the Turkana people are traditionally pastoralists, they struggle with the arid climate and this is one of the reasons why FCA provides daily meals of maize and beans to refugees and Turkana students, with support from the World Food Programme (WFP).

Two Kenyan children sit on the floor of a classroom
Children sit on the floor in a classroom of Future Bright Primary School in Kalobeyei, Kenya. Around 3,000 children attend the school in classes that have over one hundred students. Photo: Antti Yrjönen/FCA

Phillip wants to become the President of South Sudan so that he can help other children, like himself, get an education. “Being a refugee, I would love to see all children acquire education,” he says. His best subject is Social Studies because he believes it will ‘mould him into a good leader’.

Along with his parents, John Lomeri and Monica Epii, and his five siblings, Philip came to Kenya in 2016 when conflict escalated in South Sudan. They fled and found their way to Kenya where they were registered by UNHCR and settled in Kalobeyei.

WFP’s school feeding programme provides hot meals to all of the 21,000 children at FCA’s schools in Kalobeyei. The meals help to increase enrolment by encouraging parents to send their children to school as Phillip’s mother can testify. I am glad that my children get education, but they are also offered meals,” she says.

Kenyan children hold bowls of food
A girl from the Turkhana tribe holds her lunch which is served during a school meals program sat at school in Kalobeyei, Kenya. Kalobeyei is a settlement where refugees live alongside each other and face similar issues such as food, water and education shortages. FCA supports five primary schools in this area. Photo: Antti Yrjönen/FCA

Phillip is happy that he doesn’t have to try and learn on an empty stomach. “We can concentrate in school because we are not hungry. I performed well because I was never hungry,” he says, appreciating the contribution that WFP makes.

“When we go home in the evening, we often don’t find our parents because they either went to work or do business,” he says. “So, since we had meals in school, we end up revising or doing remedial classes with our teachers after 4 pm.”

Phillip’s high grades are not so unusual – the link between school meals and scholastic performance is proven. Providing school meals consistently increases school enrollment and attendance. “We have been able to keep learners in schools because of the free meals. School meal plays an important and is a motivating factor for the learners and for parents to enroll children,” said Antony Zenga, the headteacher of the Morning Star Primary. FCA Kenya schools are registered as public schools by the Ministry of Education in Kenya, thus qualifying them to be government schools where children from the local community and refugees can attend.

The Secretary of Education in Kenya, George Magoha, announced on 10 April 2022 that all students who scored over 380 for their KCPE can attend national schools. Six students from schools in Kalobeyei are eligible to enroll this year and, as one of those students, Phillip is one step closer to becoming President of South Sudan.


Text: Elizabeth Oriedi

Honey sweetens the lives of Pokot women

The Barpello women’s group in Baringo county. Photo: Rose Kosgei

Women are breaking stereotypes and treading into male-dominated realms in Kenya. They have proved that what men can do, they can do better, breaking the bias that some jobs are only meant for men.  

BEEKEEPING and  honey-processing, has always been considered men’s work in the Pokot tribe and women were considered weak in this society. Women had no voice in public forums and no authority within the home. She was considered “foolish”, like the cows for which she was traded for, says Chief Irene Kiplagat.  

March 8th is International Women’s Day and, as we celebrate inspiring women, Barpello women in Baringo County chose to take the road less travelled on their entrepreneurship journey with the support of FCA Kenya and the leadership of Chief Irene Kiplagat. Since 2018, FCA Kenya has supported the Barpello women’s group which has 25 women, the majority of whom only completed class eight. 

Chief Irene Kiplagat (at right) with members of the Barpello women’s group and the honey that they sell. Photo: Rose Kosgei

Barpello women source raw honey from farmers in the area and they sell it locally. “We source the honey at Sh500 per kilo and sell at Sh 800. In a day, we can sell over 200 kilograms depending on the season,” says Kiplagat. She says they prefer buying raw honey to keeping bees due to the time and labour demands of honey harvesting. 

Chepmarich Kakales from the Barpello women’s group with some of the honey that they sell. Photo: Rose Kosgei

“Beekeeping is not only time consuming, but also demanding. It needs dedication and monitoring to make bees feel comfortable in that environment and keep off honey thieves. We prefer buying raw honey as they only need to package and sell,” she says. 

Selling honey is a sweet business that transforms the lives of these women as there is a high demand for honey in Kenya. “We have seen the lives of women and children being transformed just because of the sale of honey. Some of the women lacked food and could not pay school fees for the children but now they can,” says Kiplagat. 

Before venturing into the honey business, most women were only housewives who depending on their husbands. “As a women’s group, we give each other loans and develop our homesteads. We save the profits from honey sales. We have a savings book from the honey business and a bank account,” Kiplagat says. 

Kiplagat says that the Barpello Women are skilled multi-taskers because they take care of numerous chores at home and while also working as businesswomen. With financial support from the FCA Kenya the women have also become peacebuilders. 

“Conflict resolution training has helped us keep peace in our homes and our location. We attend peace meetings and engage in peace dialogues. Imagine me as a woman talking to the village elders about how we can leave and coexist as humans given the fact that our culture does not allow women to address men,” says Kiplagat. 

Barpello Women group have continued to break stereotypes and boundaries. They are acknowledged, appreciated, and admired for their new roles as entrepreneurs and leaders. In 2019 Kiplagat received an award from the Baringo county government recognising her as a leader in Anti-Female Genital Mutilation and Development.  

Today, when society and businesses are still male-dominated, a growing number of ladies are becoming businesswomen. “Entrepreneurship is not a cakewalk. One must be stubborn, strong-hearted, and enduring to keep your head high even when they nag at you,” Kiplagat says. 

Text: Elizabeth Oriedi

 

Quality vs Quantity: The challenge of providing education to refugees in Kenya

“The challenges are many.” It’s a phrase you hear often in Kenya and it rings especially true in the Kakuma refugee camp.

CLOSE TO BORDERS of Uganda, South Sudan and Ethiopia, Kakuma has harboured refugees from neighbouring countries for almost thirty years. It was established when a group of children, the ‘Lost Boys’, arrived from Sudan in 1992. In that year, Ethiopians and Somalis also fled to the camp after political crisis in their countries.

Today, Kakuma and the surrounding areas hosts a mix of nationalities and over half of the population is under eighteen. They are well served by the 26 primary and secondary schools in and around the camp. Such is its reputation for education, that children will walk for days from South Sudan to Kakuma to attend school. In November last year, three quarters of the 3,000 children in the reception centres had travelled to Kakuma to enroll in school.

Two boys walking to school in a refugee settlement
Two boys walk to school in Kalobeyei, Kenya which is home to around 42,000 people, half of whom are primary-aged children or younger. These boys attend Future Primary school which is supported by FCA. Photo: Antti Yrjönen/FCA

The Kenyan Government welcomes them as best they can. Refugees in Kakuma are given a plot of land and poles and plastic sheeting to build a basic shelter. In Kalobeyei, a settlement thirty kilometres from Kakuma, they can build permanent homes, but this is barely enough to protect them from temperatures that can reach over forty degrees celsius.

Kakuma is located in one of the driest parts of Kenya and many of those who live there are dependent upon aid. Every year, new residents arrive, stretching resources further and further. In Kalobeyei, recently arrived refugees live among the Turkhana people. Established in 2016, the settlement is a departure from the Kenya Government’s earlier policy which discouraged refugees from working and integrating into the local population. In Kalobeyei, refugees and Kenyans live, work and study together. This is where FCA works.

Refugees crowd into classrooms

We operate eight primary schools for Kenyan and refugee children with funding from the Bureau of Population, Refugees & Migration, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Children’s Fund and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland. According to UNHCR, 77 percent of children aged 6-13 attend school, almost on par with the national average of 80 percent. But the number of students is ever increasing and challenges of operating crowded classrooms is no more evident than in Kalobeyei.

 

a classroom crowded with refugees
Children in a classroom at Future Primary School in Kalobeyei, Kenya. The school has around 3,000 students and each class has over 100 students. 42,000 people live in Kalobeyei and half are primary school age or younger. Photo: Antti Yrjönen/FCA

When school starts at 8am the temperature is already over thirty degrees Celsius. The air is full of dust and the shouts and laughter of children emanate from the classrooms. Inside the large, corrugated steel buildings, children are crammed four or five to a desk, overflowing onto the floor. Each class has at least one hundred students, some classes, close to two hundred.

 

Martin Albino Ayyiro (50) has been teaching for 26 years and was one of the best teachers in Torit, South Sudan, where he lived before fleeing to Kenya. Photo: Antti Yrjönen/FCA

Martin Albino Ayyiro was was a teacher in Torit, South Sudan, for twenty-five years, before conflict forced him to flee to Kenya. In South Sudan, his classes had a maximum of sixty students.

He now teaches at Future Primary School and says,

“You cannot control the situation of the classroom because you don’t know who understands you and who doesn’t understand you,” says Ayyiro.

Teachers struggle to educate

In his classroom in Kalobeyei, Ayyiro often struggles to teach his students.

“… some children are very difficult, or they have problems. Maybe a child cannot come to school or can come irregular or (they) can come late to school. So, sometimes, maybe they are sleeping in the class,” he says.

Most of the refugees in Kalobeyei are also from Torit and, as a member of this community, Ayyiro not only speaks their native language, but often knows the parents, so he will make home visits. As a refugee teacher, he is not qualified in Kenya and so is paid as a volunteer (53EURO per month) in addition to the aid he receives as a refugee. Although he faces significant challenges, there are shared by everyone who works in the program.

Richard Tsalwa is FCA’s Project Coordinator in Kalobeyei and one of the first things you notice about Tsalwa is his eyes. They are kind, but tired. He oversees eight primary schools, 231 teachers and 21,000 students. He often talks about retiring to Kakamega, in Western Kenya, where he is from.

When Tsalwa began studying education, he was guaranteed a job. But by the time he graduated (1998) the Kenyan Government had stopped employing teachers because of a World Bank structural adjustment.

“We were the first class not to be posted. We all went into other jobs – some are bankers, some are businessmen. Some Kenyan teachers spend many years unemployed – up to ten years,” says Tsalwa.

FCA's project manager in Kakuma
Richard Tsalwa is the Technical Project Manager for FCA in Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. A trained teacher himself, he oversees primary education for around 21,000 students. Photo: Antti Yrjönen/FCA

When it comes to education, Tsalwa has seen it all. He has been a humanitarian for fifteen years and has worked in Nigeria, Sudan, Chad, Sri Lanka and, for the last three years, in Kakuma for FCA. “We have seen education changing the lives of these refugees,” Tsalwa says.

Giving every child an education is a simple theory, but in practice, ‘the challenges are many’, especially among refugee populations. Sustainable Development Goal number four is to ‘ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’. The reality is that there is no single organisation or authority responsible for this. In Kakuma, the responsibility for primary and secondary education for refugees lies with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), however their primary mandate is protection, not education.

Funding cuts mean more students per teacher

Funding cuts in the aid sector mean that FCA has less money to pay teachers in 2022 – funds for next year are 40% less than in 2021 which means less teachers or smaller salaries.. “… if you reduce the teachers, the number of learners is increasing – there are new ones coming in … Right now we have a gap of 35 teachers and … we can only absorb (pay) these teachers just for six months,” says Tsalwa.

 

Children receiving a meal in a school
Children in Kalobeyei queue up for lunch. The school has around 3,000 students and for many of them this will be their only meal of the day. Photo: Antti Yrjönen/FCA

Beside teacher salaries, there are other costs of running a school such as teaching and learning materials, equipping children with special needs, supporting teenage mothers. The World Food Program funds school meals which for some children, is their only meal of the day.

 

As little funding as there is for primary education, there is even less for secondary. This results in high dropout rates. Among refugees aged from 14-17, only five percent attend high school. This is lower than the rate in Turkhana County (nine percent) where Kalobeyei is located and well below the 38 percent national average.

FCA training refugees to teach

With so few refugees finishing high school very few are qualified to become teachers, but this is something that FCA is trying to address by providing scholarships to refugees at a new teacher training college close to Kakuma. Funded by UNHCR, the college has the capacity for one hundred students, and Mawut Wwor Chol is one of the first to attend lectures there. Originally from Ethiopia, Chol started studying at the college in October, but his journey to get there epitomises the challenges that refugees face.

Chol started Secondary School in 2011 and, due to ‘issues’, had to repeat his first class. During his exams for his school certificate the camp was ‘in a mess’. “There was infighting among the refugees. There was a fighting that messed up the camp and there was insecurity … I had sleepless nights. I would be watching from seven in the evening up to the daybreak and then I went to write the exam until I completed,” says Chol.

Mawut Wwar Chol, a refugee teacher
Mawut Wwor Chol (32) sits in a class at the teacher training college close to the Kakuma refugee camp. He is one of the first students to attend classes at the college which is supported by FCA. Originally from Ethiopia, Chol fled to Kakuma with his younger brother when he was fourteen. Photo: Antti Yrjönen/FCA

He failed his exams. “That made me bitter,” he says. Determined, he decided to repeat and was offered a scholarship at a school in Kitale, a large town in Western Kenya. This time he passed, but it still took him another year to find a job as a teacher in Kakuma. When he finally did, he seized every educational opportunity that came his way and has even completed a course with Regis University in the United States in March 2021. “Instead of going to Nairobi University or anywhere there, we are trying to get it piece by piece, so that we join the educated world,” says Chol.

If the challenges for men like Chol are many, the challenges for women are even more. The few who complete secondary school have very low grades, so finding qualified female teachers is very difficult.

“At ECD (early childhood development) the ratio is fifty-fifty, boys to girls. As you go up the grades, the ration decreases to about a third of girls in the classrooms. They leave school for many reasons – domestic work, looking after other children, pregnancy and early marriage,” says Tsalwa.

Women face more challenges

These challenges are something that Roda Daniel knows well. A refugee from Sudan, she fled to Kenya, alone, after primary school. Girls like her are particularly vulnerable, and so she was enrolled in an all-girls boarding school. This helped her to focus on her studies and she graduated and became a teacher. Now, she is the deputy head teacher at Morning Star Primary School (which is supported by FCA) and is one of the first students to study at the Teacher Training Centre.

Image of female refugee teacher
Roda Daniel (25) is one of the first teachers to attend lectures at the teacher training college near Kakuma, Kenya. Roda finished primary school in Sudan before she fled to Kenya. After completing high school, she became a deputy head teacher at a local primary school. Photo: Antti Yrjonen/FCA

“Going to school from very early in the morning and coming out from here 5-5.30 you reach home six. With some females, like the lactating mothers, it becomes a challenge. What we came to realise, when the few were shortlisted, it was a qualification thing that meant most of females were not selected. Though many of us hoped to have this course, now, very few, very few are picked because of the qualifications,” says Daniel.

Despite affirmative action, that recognises experience instead of qualifications, Daniel was one of only ten females out of sixty students in the first intake at the college. Those who were ‘picked’ realise how lucky they are. When you walk into the lecture hall of the training college there is a palpable feeling of optimism. Although this might be said of any group of young hopefuls, it is amplified by the challenges that these students have had overcome to make it here. “You see the hunger for education, especially among the South Sudanese,” says Dennis Wamalwa, the lecturer.

The education diploma offered at the Teacher Training College is a compressed course that takes just over a year, whereas a diploma in a public university takes between two and two and a half years. At the college, students learn onsite and online and the first intake should graduate in December next year.

Tsalwa is hopeful that the training college will improve the standard of education and teaching in Kakuma. “I hope to see well trained teachers (in 2022) who will definitely boost the quality of teaching and learning in our schools

… when we talk of quality, you can only talk of quality when you have trained teachers to deliver the curriculum,” says Tsalwa.

 

exterior of the teacher training college
The resource centre in the teacher training college in the Kakuma refugee camp. Opening in October 2021 and supported by FCA, the centre offers a university diploma in education to refugee teachers. Photo: Antti Yrjönen/FCA

Tsalwa is also a realist and knows that once the refugees are qualified, they may leave teaching for other opportunities. He says that “… if you graduate in Kenya with a primary school certificate, you are well-qualified if you go back to South Sudan.”

“When you train them well, they get other jobs, because they don’t like teaching. They do it because they don’t have any other choice, so we have a high turnover of teachers,” he says. There is very little that can be done about this. Tsalwa knows himself how stressful teaching is even when they aren’t dealing with over a hundred students. Chol acknowledges this too, “I think it (the course) is a gateway for another opportunity.”

But Roda Daniel is different and illustrates why it is important to create opportunities for women. “With my mindset, I am still just within Kenya. And after graduating I will still see ahead if I will really get an opportunity to do a degree. Meanwhile (it is) still best teaching or supporting our community.”

Roda Daniel at the teacher training college
Roda Daniel (25) leaves the teacher training college for refugees. After completing high school in Kakuma, she became a deputy head teacher at a local primary school and is one of the first to attend lectures at the college. Photo: Antti Yrjönen/FCA

Text: Melany Markham

Photos: Antti Yrjönen

FCA and Kenya women recognized by an ally of women’s empowerment

Former President of Estonia highlighted how information and communication technology, such as the Internet and mobile phones, are powerful tools for increasing women’s voice and encouraged women to embrace technology.

WOMEN IN KENYA have a powerful ally in the former President of Estonia, Kersti Kaljulaid, one of the most powerful women in the world. When elected in 2016, Kaljulaid was the youngest and first woman to be elected as president of Estonia. 

During her term, Kaljulaid highlighted the issue of domestic violence and championed birth registration for every child. Visiting Kenya for the first time in 2021, Kaljulaid joined more than 500 women and ten non-government organizations that aim to empower women in Kenya. Women from education, handicraft, information technology and fashion attended the Women’s Empowerment Breakfast organized by Mondo, an Estonian NGO (one of FCA’s partners). 

ICTs can help empower women 

The former President Kaljulaid said that she is thrilled that the collaboration with FCA aimed empower women and youth through creative industries. 

“ICTs can increase women’s and girls’ access to knowledge and information beyond their immediate environment and enable wider professional networks,” she said. 

Kaljulaid also highlighted how information and communication technology (ICT), such as the Internet and mobile phones, are powerful tools for increasing women’s voice and encouraged women to embrace technology. 

“ICTs can help shape the aspirations and hopes of the next generation of women and girls, including their economic opportunities, expectations of gender roles, and leadership abilities”, she said. 

Woman on the right, former President of Estonia, Ms. Kersti Kaljulaid receiving an art work from a group of people including FCA Country director John Bongei.
Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS), State Department for Gender, Linah Chebii Kilimo together with FCA Kenya’s Country director Mr. John Bongei, presenting a piece of Kenyan Art Work to the former President of Estonia Ms. Kersti Kaljulaid.

Showing an example with digitalization 

Like Kenya, Estonia is a world leader in digitization and has been described as the ‘world’s most digitally advanced society. Following a strategic government policy and deliberate investment in IT infrastructure, the country started e-banking in 1996. E-IDs followed in 2002, and now almost every bureaucratic task can be done online in Estonia. 

In Nairobi, 60 percent of the population lives in Eastlands where many young people struggle to find employment and do not have access to digital learning opportunities. FCA Kenya and Mondo are training 250 young people with hands-on skills in photography and videography, online music recording, and other digital economy skills. 

John Bongei, FCA Kenya’s Country Director, presented shared more about the impact of our work in the education sector, peace and livelihood to the audience present during the September 2021 break with the President.  

“FCA is honored to be recognized by woman who has achieved so much for herself and her country. She is an inspiration to all of us, and we look forward to following her example through our work with Mondo,” Bongei said. 

According to Kaljulaid, Covid forced the global education community to step away from business as usual and to work in partnership even more, identifying alternative ways for children and teachers to continue learning remotely. In isolated areas this means providing quality educational resources for teaching and learning. 

“I am glad that Kenya has solutions for children to learn virtually despite the Covid disruption,” said Kaljulaid.


By: Elizabeth Oriedi 

28.5.2021

Fighting period poverty leads to a future of confident and educated women

Monthly sanitary pad distributions at school prevent girls from missing classes or dropping out completely. Education about menstruation increases self-esteem.

When her monthly period comes, 16-year-old Michelina tears a pillow and picks out pieces of its worn stuffing – an old cloth rug that she uses in place of the sanitary pad she cannot afford. That is just the tip of the iceberg. The worst part is that Michelina, who lives in Kalobeyei refugee settlement, cannot talk to anyone about her periods.

Despite being a normal biological process, menstruation remains taboo. Many girls stay home from school during their periods, leaving them behind in their education. In class, girls say that their concern about leakages makes it harder for them to concentrate in class or dissuade them from participating in the first place. Even with sanitary pads or towels, Michelina says that finding a bathroom is an issue.

“Without safe, private places for cleaning and changing during our periods, we continue to struggle despite the supplies”, she says.

Working against period poverty is an integral part of Finn Church Aid’s (FCA) education support in the refugee settlements Kakuma and Kalobeyei. Distributions of sanitary pads have reached 5,000 adolescent girls since last year. Project officer Catherine Angwenyi says the program has supported girls in several other ways too.

FCA’s sanitary pads distribution couples with sexual and reproductive health education, and the program has reduced school absenteeism among the girls.

Catherine Angewenyi (in the middle) from FCA distributing sanitary pads at Kalobeyei refugee settlement. Photo: Loduye Ghaisen

“When parents do not take the time to talk to their girls on menstrual hygiene, the only way girls get information and support is through education programs that distribute pads,” Angweny explains.

Monthly sanitary pad distributions prevent girls from dropping out and keep them from asking for pads from men that can take advantage of them. When girls go to school, they are less likely to become pregnant or, for instance, get an HIV infection.

Angwenyi believes that by doing everything for girls to stay in school, we are heading to a future of fewer teenage pregnancies and more educated and confident women.

“When you educate a girl, you change the world,” she says.

Nkurunziza, 16, says that learning about menstruation and hygiene practices has changed her attitude: she no longer stays home from school during her periods.

“Having pads increases my confidence and helps me focus on my studies, and I can even excel in exams”, she says.

Text: Elizabeth Oriedi
Photos: Loduye Ghaisen

Together with other countries worldwide, Kenya celebrates World Refugee Day on June 20th to appreciate the lives of all displaced people scattered across the world.

Kenya has nearly half a million refugees, mainly from the Great Lakes and the Horn of Africa region. Around 40 percent of the refugees live in Kakuma in Turkana County, one of the poorest counties in northern Kenya, and Finn Church Aid (FCA) offers humanitarian services to the displaced persons in Kakuma Refugee Camp and Kalobeyei Settlement.

This year’s celebration highlights the theme “Together we heal, learn and shine”. In the past year, the Covid-19 pandemic particularly disrupted the education and health sector. Learning was almost impossible because of the protocols put in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Children have more space during classes thanks to tent structures that create more space at school.
“The school children relied on lessons broadcasted on radio, and this was helpful to the learners,” says Emmanuel Mr. Wamalwa, Headteacher of Future Primary School in Kalobeyei Settlement.

During the protracted crisis created by the Covid-19 pandemic, it is vital to ensure children still have access to education. FCA provides safe and inclusive quality pre-primary and primary education to 21,000 learners, 19,950 of them refugees. The reopening of schools has required new solutions to ensure that learners continue studying and observing the social distance protocol.

Before Covid-19, the classes at Future Primary School accommodated 130 learners per classroom. With funding from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs Finland, the school received eight temporary tents to decongest classes and achieve the required distance between learners. One tent carries 36 desks.

“The tents are a relief to us as learners can keep social distance and maintain hygiene,” says Mr Wamalwa.

In celebration of World Refugee Day, the school will arrange a sports event for the entire school where children can run, play ball games and recite poems. Playing together helps to ease the children’s minds from the demanding life of the refugee camp, and it builds unity among those displaced.

“Most of our learners are refugees, and we want to celebrate the day with them. We advise them to live one day at a time and be mindful about their mental wellbeing,” emphasizes Mr Wamalwa.

Text: Elizabeth Oriedi