Overcoming Obstacles to Educational Access for Kenyan Girls: A Qualitative Study
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AbstractDespite the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations Millennium Project, having its third goal as promoting gender equality and empowering women, and even with all new progress in equality, Kenya is still lagging behind when comparing the educational opportunities of boys and girls. In most cases where cultural beliefs are involved, the girl-child falls victim to violation of her rights, including her rights to education and freedom of expression. Many girls are forced into early marriages, experience Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and sexual exploitation, among many other concerns and at some point they all lead to her inability to achieve her education. The purpose of the study was geared towards exploring the socio-cultural and economic factors and activities that hinder girls from accessing education in Kenya and toward overcoming the obstacles. The research was conducted in Taita Taveta, Nairobi, Kwale and Samburu Counties in Kenya, in different areas within these counties. The study employed qualitative data collection and purposeful Sampling was used to select individuals and sites, involving 72 participants’ i.e. students, teachers and principals, community leaders, Government officials and parents. Sampling occurred through a combination of two strategies including snowball and homogenous sampling methods from the various study locations. Focus group interviews, one-on-one interviews were conducted, and students filled out questionnaires. Data was then transcribed following the participants’ responses. The findings indicate that socio-cultural and economic factors contributed to girls being out of school especially in Samburu and Maasai communities where cultural practices including FGM, early forced marriages, among many others were persistent. Another factor was poverty which participants mentioned affected their education because of high drop-out rates to find jobs to sustain their needs. The majority of the participants desired more women’s empowerment programs in and out of school.