What Is Daily Life Like for Kenya’s Girls?

These girls are like any girls, anywhere. They love to learn and play and have big dreams. However, like more than one-third of Kenyans, they live below the poverty line, and they face confronting challenges.

With the support of Compassion’s local church partners, these girls have the care they need to rise above their circumstances with determination and hope.

Welcome to a day in the life of Kenya’s girls!

Morning

Silhouette of a woman's profile.

Habari za asubuhi; good morning! One by one, around the country, the girls rise to greet the day. Yawning and rubbing their eyes, they spring out of bed. (Or perhaps they need to be coaxed out from under the blankets, grumbling.)

Some push aside the mosquito nets that protect them from malaria; others nudge aside younger siblings who share their mattress.

Abigail is sleeping on a bed under her mosquito net. There is a red blanket covering her.

Breakfast in Kenya tends to be simple. A cup of hot, milky chai, bread, porridge or fruit. However, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, plus recent droughts and locust plagues, mean many girls will start their day hungry. Over 11 percent of Kenya’s children are underweight, and UNICEF reports that more than a quarter of children under 5 have stunted growth.

Since the pandemic began, Compassion’s local church partners have organized mobile cash transfers to vulnerable families so they can feed their families.

Morning Chores

Faith is wearing a blue dress and a gray sweatshirt. They are bothShe is kneeling down and getting water from a dug out in the river.

Before heading off to school, Kenya’s girls usually help their families with the morning chores.

In Kitui County, eastern Kenya, 8-year-old Faith collects water from the riverbed. One-third of Kenyans rely on “unimproved water sources” like ponds, shallow wells and rivers. Unless they have a simple way to treat the water, it can put children at risk of dangerous waterborne diseases.

Girl tending goats.

Maindi, 8, milks her family’s goat. She is part of the Rendille people of eastern Kenya, an Indigenous tribe that traditionally lives a nomadic lifestyle while caring for their animals.

After Maindi finishes the milking, she walks to school. Because she is registered in Compassion’s program, she is the first child in her family to receive a formal education.

Time for School

Gaudencia is wearing a white dress with a blue pattern. She is walking through the streets which are full of people.

Many girls in Kenya face a long walk to school, particularly in rural areas. It’s not unusual for them to walk several miles each way. Gaudencia walks through the streets of her neighborhood in Mathare, one of Nairobi’s largest slums.

Children in a classroom sitting behind shared desks.

In Kenya, every child has the right to free and compulsory basic education. The country has made significant literacy gains in recent years, but crowded classrooms and poor-quality teaching can still affect the quality of children’s learning. In some areas, the pupil-to-teacher ratio is as high as 77-to-1.

As part of Compassion’s program, children receive education support. It could be additional tutoring, lessons at their child development center or covering the costs of school fees, uniforms and supplies.

Afternoon Chores

Harvesting food from a garden.

Back at home, many of Kenya’s girls have a few jobs to do before they are free for the afternoon. In their seaside community, Flora, 13, helps her mother dig in their vegetable garden. The main veggies families grow are potatoes, tomatoes, cabbages, snow peas, kale, beans and carrots.

Praise, a 10 year old child, girl, sponsored child, wearing a red dress, bends over to help her mother, parent, adult woman, wash and clean dishes, daily household chores, outside using a large blue tub and soap.

Ten-year-old Praise helps her grandmother to scrub clothes with soap before rinsing them clean and hanging them to dry on a line under the bright sun.

Homework

Tracy is pictured here sitting behind a display of fruits at her grandmother's shop.

Tracy sits in her grandmother’s grocery kiosk after school. In between helping her serve customers, Tracy does her homework. “I love to help my grandmother at the shop, plus it also helps me to know how to talk to people and to practice mathematics because of working out the change to give,” she says.

An adolescent girl in a navy blue and red striped shirt sits on a blue sofa at a coffee table looking at and using a black laptop computer with her hands on the keyboard. There are a blue cup and a cell phone on the table. There is another couch with a black backpack on it. The walls are white with black splatters on them.

Synthia types up her schoolwork on a laptop. In 2017, she and her friends invented a mobile app to abolish female genital mutilation. It won second prize in the Google-sponsored Technovation challenge! She learned to use a computer at her Compassion center, and this helped her develop an interest in technology.

Maindi sits on the floor in her home and works on her homework.

Maindi does her homework in the afternoon so she can concentrate before her older siblings and father return home from tending their animals. Her home doesn’t have electricity, so when it gets dark, she uses a kerosene lamp.

Time for Fun

Group portraits and shots of teen girls playing outside project in Solai, Kenya

With chores complete and homework out of the way, it’s time for fun! Mary plays “keep away” with staff outside her local Compassion child development center.

Leach is seen here wearing a bright yellow shirt, standing in front of a corrugated metal fence. She is holding a puppy, and is smiling at the camera.

Leach shows off an adorable puppy in her community in Nairobi. The 12-year-old wants to be a teacher when she grows up. “I want to make a positive impact in the lives of little kids … and give them hope for the future,” she says.

Praise, a 10 year old girl, wearing a red athletic sport shirt, kicks at a soccer ball on the dirt ground playing with another child.

Praise lines up a goal at the local soccer field in western Kenya. Soccer is the most popular sport in the country.

Leach is one of Kenya's girls. She is smiling and looking at the camera as she is wearing her pink dress and shoes.

Leach twirls in her favorite dress — a Christmas gift from her sponsor.

Dinnertime

Evening cooking and dinner outside with Salama and her family, all sitting on woven mat.

Salama and her family eat dinner outside together while sitting on a woven mat. With lots of siblings and cousins, their typical meal of bean stew and ugali (maize or cassava-flour porridge) is chaotic and full of laughter.

Leach and her grandmother are seen here laughing and smiling and making Chapati, or Indian flatbread.

Leach helps her grandmother make her favorite meal — chapati. In Kenya, the flatbread is a special treat that is eaten on special occasions. Leach’s family served it on Christmas Day.

Bedtime

Abigail is wearing a light pink dress and is holding a mosquito net up above her head.

Abigail gets ready for bed in the Rift Valley. The area has beautiful, expansive lakes plus swampy marshes, so mosquitos call the area home too. She sleeps under a mosquito net at night to protect herself from malaria and yellow fever. “I can now sleep throughout the night without waking up to fight with mosquitoes,” she says.

Shaniz is one of Kenya's girls. She is wearing a red dress with a blue floral print jacket. She is sitting on a bed in her home and is holding a teddy bear. There are red curtains in the window.

Usiku mwema! Goodnight from Kenya’s girls. Tomorrow is another day, and it is full of hope.


Photography and reporting from Kenya by Isaac Ogila and Kevin Ouma.

1 Comment |Add a comment

  1. Sharyn McClure June 29, 2021

    I loved reading this and seeing the pictures. What beautiful people and thank Compassion International for providing so many necessities for these children.

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