Health Cabinet Secretary (CS), Mutahi Kagwe, has emphasized that education is essential to the future of the girl-child hence the need for renewed focus to keeping them in school.
Kagwe said the government is using a holistic approach through provision of bursaries, sanitary towels as well as school meals where necessary to ensure girls pursue their education seamlessly.
Speaking at Afya House, during the International Day of the Girl-Child, Kagwe said that it is well known that poor health undermines a girls’ potential and hinders her growth and development.
This year’s theme is “Digital Generation. Our Generation.”
“The Ministry of Health is, therefore, working towards improving access to health for girls in need. Adolescent and Youth Friendly Centers in both public and private health facilities have increased from 11 percent in 2015 to over 75 percent in 2019,” said Kagwe.
The CS said that the Ministry of Health has also rolled out the Human Papilloma Virus Vaccine, for girls aged 10-12 years that aims to reduce their incidence of cervical cancer later in life.
“The Ministry of Health is focused on providing information on nutrition to both boys and girls in schools on enhancing dietary diversity, safe food handling, including the preservation of nutrients in food preparation, since adequate nutrition is essential for the growth of girls, as well as their development,” he said.
He added that the Ministry of Health is working with the Ministry of Agriculture to promote home and school gardens, for the provision of nutritious meals for both boys and girls in their homes and schools.
“Girls are a basic source of transformational change for gender equality and technology is a crucial tool to support their learning, work and leadership. This year’s theme “Digital Generation. Our Generation” is aimed at highlighting the digital realities and the solutions girls need to excel on their diverse pathways, for freedom of expression, joy and to enhance their potential,” highlighted the CS.
Kagwe said that the focus should be on the challenges girls face, including child marriage, Gender-Based Violence, education inequality and lack of menstrual hygiene products.
The CS noted that when girls lack empowerment, any additional stressful circumstances such as drought, floods and pandemics like Covid-19, inevitably affects them differently.
“Studies have shown that violence against girl’s spike during crises such as witnessed during the worst days of Covid-19. The Ministry of Health, working together with County Governments, is committed to preventing violence and supporting violence survivors with safe spaces, medical attention, as well as guidance and counselling and to access legal assistance,” said Kagwe.
Kagwe said that the Government is also committed to ensuring mental health for girls, by working together with other partners to promote the use of toll-free lines such as the National Gender Based Violence help line 1195 to help victims of Sexual and Gender based violence, and the child line Kenya helpline 116, and the LVCT one to one youth helpline 1190.
“Economic support is essential for girls to achieve their full potential. The Government is working together with other partners to provide cash assistance, job skills training and small business support for the older girls, once they finish secondary learning,” said Kagwe.
The CS said that empowered girls are forceful agents of positive change, but they are not always heard and are rarely recognized as leaders, adding that the Ministry of Health is working to change harmful gender norms, that hamper the girl’s development potential, in a bid to create more equal communities, where they are at the front and center of national development.
“There must be safe and equitable internet access for all children, especially girls in the context of protecting them from inappropriate content, cyber bullying and other forms of Gender-Based Violence in and around educational settings, for learning and beyond,” said Kagwe.
By Joseph Ng’ang’a