This week, Kakenya’s Dream hosted our largest celebration yet! Over 1,400 local girls, teachers, parents, and community members gathered at the Kakenya Center for Excellence (KCE I) to commemorate the eighth annual International Day of the Girl and the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
Since 2012, October 11 has been marked by the UN as the International Day of the Girl. Each year, the occasion serves as an important call to action to address the needs and challenges girls face globally, while promoting girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights. This year’s International Day of the Girl celebrations held special meaning.
25 years ago, some 30,000 dreamers and leaders from nearly 200 countries arrived in Beijing, China for the Fourth World Conference on Women. The conference culminated in the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, one of the most comprehensive policy agendas to date for the empowerment of women and girls. This year on International Day of the Girl, we commemorate achievements by, with, and for girls since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration.
To mark the momentous occasion, Kakenya’s Dream elevated our annual Day of the Girl celebration with special guests from the Kenyan government, and over 1,400 participants – that’s more than double the attendees we’ve ever had at our annual event! Participants marched together through the streets of Enoosaen in a parade to raise awareness about the challenges girls face right here in our community, and to demand better opportunities and conditions for girls everywhere.
This year’s Day of the Girl theme, “GirlForce: Unscripted and Unstoppable”, marks the continuation of last year’s theme (“With Her: A Skilled Girl Force”) and sustained efforts to bring together partners and stakeholders to equip girls with the power, knowledge, and space to lead the charge on girls’ empowerment. Rather than work solely for girls, this theme highlights the importance of the global community working alongside them to amplify their voices and create space for their ideas and leadership at the head of decision-making tables on important issues that impact their lives.
The special guests at our annual event included two inspiring keynote speakers, Bernadette Loloju, the CEO of the Anti-FGM Board of the Kenyan Government, and Safina Kwekwe, Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Youth and Gender. It was an honor to have our speakers fly in from Nairobi to spend this important day with our community. In highlighting this year’s theme, P.S. Safina Kwekwe powerfully stated “It benefits us all to support more women in positions of leadership to serve this country at all levels. It behooves all of us to support girls and to nurture and grow their leadership abilities so that they can ultimately claim these positions of leadership.”
At Kakenya’s Dream, we know well that when girls are given the resources and support they need to avoid FGM and early marriage and stay in school, they thrive and become leaders. Our girls are raising their voices against gender inequality, injustice, and violence, and demanding that their rights be respected by all. They are unscripted, and unstoppable.
As part of our Day of the Girl celebrations, students from both our primary and high school also participated in an activist art competition, submitting pieces that highlight important issues faced by women and girls in the community. We received dozens of creative and powerful pieces of artwork depicting challenges ranging from early pregnancy to child labor and child marriage.
As is now an annual tradition, our girls were also asked to write a commitment to themselves and their future by finishing the sentence “If you invest in me, I will…” Likewise, parents, teachers, and community members were also asked to make pledges to invest in and improve opportunities for the girls. Now, it’s on us to follow through on our promises to invest in girls and create opportunities and bright futures for them, and, by extension, their families, communities, and our world.
Emphasizing the importance of these promises to our girls, P.S. Safina Kwekwe ended her remarks with a meaningful call to action: “I call upon you to work alongside all girls to expand learning opportunities, chart new frontiers, and rethink how to better help girls transition successfully to adulthood and the world of work. I call upon you to guarantee safe spaces that allow our girls to grow and become responsible global citizens. Do this, and this community will be better because of the investments made in girls today.”