The story of Jesus’ mother Mary, who became pregnant at a young age and faced potential stoning, while very different in context, resonates with Anglican Overseas Aid’s (AOA) work in Kenya, where they partner with the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) to protect the rights of women and children.
Often women and girls find themselves in powerless positions, subject to the will of their family, and unable to direct their lives or access education. Many find themselves abandoned and living in poverty.
AOA’s program in Kenya is educating communities about the rights of women and children so they can advocate and negotiate for themselves. The program helps them access education and find ways to earn a living, supports networks for women who have experienced domestic violence, and helps community leaders promote respectful treatment of women.
Many women and girls in Kenya face extraordinary difficulties and uncertain futures. Teenage pregnancy and child marriage are significant problems in certain areas of the country. Anne, one of the teachers at a local primary school, explained that girls as young as 13 are becoming pregnant.
She says, “At first it used to give me a lot of stress when I came to this school. I would be with the girls, I walked with them all the way through, and just as a child is about to go to class 8, or is already in class 8, she drops out of school.”
Parents arranging for their children to be married at a very young age is also something that has troubled Anne.
“I felt so bad,” she explained.
“I didn’t want to see the parents…I realise now the culture needs to change itself slowly. And I need to take the parents through slowly, and show them the essence of education.”
The Anglican Church of Kenya’s work with teachers like Anne is proving invaluable as it is strengthening the mechanisms in schools that protect students.
This year, however, COVID-19 has increased the vulnerability of women and girls, placing their health, security and livelihoods at risk. This year has seen an increase in teenage pregnancy and child marriage coinciding with the shutdown of schools as the safety and protection mechanisms provided by the school environment have been removed.
Despite the challenges of COVID-19, positive change is slowly taking place. AOA’s program in Kenya is bringing renewed hope through just and resilient communities with improved self-reliance, reduced vulnerability and improved quality of life for all – particularly those who are most vulnerable, despite the immense challenges faced at this time.
You can donate to Anglican Overseas Aid’s ‘Lifting Up The Lowly’ Christmas Appeal by visiting their website (choose 01.2020 – ‘Lifting The Lowly’), calling 1800 249 880 or sending a cheque made payable to Anglican Overseas Aid to:
Anglican Overseas Aid
PO Box 389
Abbotsford, VIC 3067