The Daraja admissions team was in Nanyuki, ready to interview another group of applicants from around Laikipia. There was something striking about today’s group: an adult woman stood at the side of every single student waiting to interview.
As we started the interviews, we heard stories of supportive mothers, aunts, grandmothers, and even female caretakers in group homes—women whose support shone through the difficult circumstances. In almost every story we heard, the students weren’t facing the world alone. No matter how intimidating it became, they had a woman standing behind them, teaching them to be strong.
Here in Laikipia, early marriage is not a vague concept, but rather a reality that challenges the aspirations of many girls. The pressure to marry can be enormous, and mothers have the potential to be their daughters’ strongest advocates in these situations. “I see many girls drop out of schools because of fees, and their parents make them marry, even if they are underage,” a student told us. “My mother never did that, and it gives me hope.”
Towards the end of the day, an applicant cried throughout her whole interview. Near the end, we asked her what she was feeling. “I just think about my mother,” she said. “She is struggling, and I’m not going to fail her.”
For many students, the courage of the women behind them has become their own motivation to succeed. “I have to succeed because of my grandma,” another girl declared. “Once, she almost died, because she used the money for her medicine to pay my school fees.”
We’re doing our best here at Daraja to support students in every way that we can, including teaching confidence and leadership in WISH classes. But we know that many Daraja girls arrive with an internal strength already instilled by the women who raised them.
We would like to say thank you to these women. Thank you to the grandmother who was homeless because she prioritized paying her granddaughter’s school fees above paying rent. Thank you to the mother who helped her daughter cross the country to avoid a wedding she was too young for. Thank you to the aunt who took on the responsibility of supporting a girl through school when her mother died.
Whether at Daraja or elsewhere, our dream is that every girl will be able to attend secondary school. After hearing about these incredible women in Laikipia (and around the world) supporting girls’ education, we’re hopeful that this dream can come true.