In Kenya, only 48% of girls are enrolled in secondary education, and 16% of women in Kenya are functionally illiterate. Girls have too long suffered the consequences of being denied an education at a higher frequency than men. Daraja’s goal is to contribute to the solution.
What is the cycle of poverty?
The ‘cycle of poverty’ can be defined as the conditions of underdevelopment – including poor nutrition and access to clean water, healthcare, and jobs – that stubbornly persist for generations and prohibit children from escaping the same material destitution of their parents. This ‘cycle’ recognizes that the system is rigged against children born into poor families – who are far more likely to remain poor themselves.
How can someone escape this cycle?
While many of the material needs that characterize poverty can be addressed in the short-term, education is the most effective tool in disrupting long-term, systemic poverty. Only through education can children access the careers that afford a higher quality of life than that of their parents.
How does educating a girl improve her life and the lives of her children?
On average, a girl’s income will rise 10-20% for each year she remains in school. But these gains become even more pronounced in secondary school, where she can expect to earn 25% more in wages for each additional year. This means she’ll have a much better chance of obtaining financial independence, and can put off marrying for financial reasons alone. If she does decide to marry and have children, she’ll have more earning power to support them and more of a safety net to leave her husband if she wants to. Furthermore, when a girl is educated, she learns valuable lessons about personal health, sexual education, and her own human rights. This results in her being less likely to marry young, die in childbirth, or contract HIV.
When an educated girl does decide to have children, she tends to have fewer of them, about 1.7 on average, in comparison to the 2.5 average of uneducated women. The children she does have tend to be healthier: For each year a woman remains in school, the mortality rate for her children under 5 years of age reduces between 5-10%. Furthermore, because an educated woman understands the value of education and makes enough money to pay for the school fees, her children are far more likely to be educated themselves. An educated girl has better means to take care of and support herself, and her family. Her education helps her transition out of a life of poverty, and increases the chances of her children significantly improving their lot in life as well.
How does girls’ education contribute to international development?
Not only does a girl’s education improve her life and the lives of her children, it is also good for her country as a whole. Lawrence Summers, former Chief Economist at the world bank, famously argued that “investment in girls’ education may well be the highest return investment available in the developing world.”
We focus on girls at Daraja, because education is the most effective means of helping a girl, her family, her children, and her community escape the cycle of poverty. As the Daraja girls say on campus:
“When you educate a girl, you educate the whole world.”