Last year we launched an initiative to get more girls into school, bring down teenage pregnancy and see an end to child marriage in the areas we work. With up to 50% of young women recording that they married under the age of 18, AfriKids recognised the urgent need for something to change. With funding from the UK government’s Department for International Development and support from the players of People’s Postcode Lottery, work began.
But none of this would be possible without support from campaigners within the local communities. Crucial support from people who truly believe that there is a need for change and who are willing to question damaging traditional attitudes in their communities to promote a better understanding of issues arising from teenage pregnancy and child marriage, such as girls being held back from accessing an education. This work is therefore not only protecting girls and their health but enabling them to become active, productive members of their society, which in turn helps to lift their communities as a whole out of poverty.
Whilst it is rewarding work, to see the positive development of your own local community, it is not without its challenges; however AfriKids have been overwhelmed by the dedication and commitment of these local heroes. Outside of their everyday jobs, whether a farmer, teacher or hairdresser, they are advocates of girls’ rights fighting against forced marriage and underage pregnancy to promote an environment where girls will have more choice over if, and when, to marry and have children.
This is an incredibly important step towards ensuring that girls stay in school, giving them a better chance of building their own independent future. The Community Health Campaigners spend time in schools and communities providing educational workshops for both girls and importantly boys, on contraception, sexual health and sex education.
Giving children and young adults access to a better understanding of this subject, which is often considered too much of a taboo to discuss amongst families, may seem simple but we’re already seeing effective results! This is how locally led development is changing the face of aid.
A huge thank you to players of People's Postcode Lottery for making this possible.