Slum Doctor Programme

“Educate These Girls Who Have Been Left Behind”
November 13, 2007, 10:37 am
Filed under: Programs | Tags: , , ,


The title of this post comes from a poem by Brenda Aoko, a girl at the Ombogo Girls’ Academy in Kenya. Her words are a cry from young women in countries all over the world who don’t want to be statistics anymore; young women who want a chance to succeed despite the odds being stacked against them in many ways, and who do not want to left behind anymore because of inequality, poverty, and disease.

HIV/AIDS is devastating an entire generation, and is disproportionately affecting women in Africa. In Sub-Saharan Africa, nearly 60 percent of the adult population (persons 15 years and older) living with AIDS are women. Despite the general trends that show HIV infection rates stabilizing and declining, the number of women with AIDS has been steadily rising for the past 20 years (2006 UNAIDS Report). Many factors are contributing to the rising numbers of women with the disease.

Women in the developing world not only struggle with the affects from HIV/AIDS, they also face gender inequality and poverty, two causes for the high infection rate. Many African women are subject to sexual abuse at home, forced into sexual relationships due to poverty, and are left to care for others whose lives have been devastated by the effects of the epidemic. These women go through life with no other alternative, no voice.

However, there is hope. One of the most effective ways of lowering the number of women living with HIV/AIDS is to offer them education. At the Ombogo Girls’ Academy in Homa Bay, Kenya, Slum Doctor Programme offers sponsorships to more than 50 girls to attend the boarding school.

Situated in an extremely poor rural area which has been decimated by HIV/AIDS, the sponsorship program at the school provides all of the expenses associated with one year at the Academy, such as school fees, uniforms, food, and educational materials. An opportunity for a secondary school education empowers these girls to decide what they want out of life, a decision millions of young girls do not have throughout the world. Along with basic studies, the girls also receive vital HIV/AIDS awareness education, which leads to lower infection rates.

The fact that education is such a vital way of solving the global HIV/AIDS problem cannot be ignored. Educated women are five times more likely to know the facts about HIV/AIDS than illiterate women, and are able to protect themselves more effectively. Similarly, a study in Zambia showed that infection rates fell by almost half among women with a formal education. Also, women with a higher level of education also marry later, which in a large way reduces the number of women infected (Global Coalition on Women and AIDS). The examples go on, but one thing remains true: education for young women is a key factor in reducing the number of these women who become infected with HIV/AIDS.

The Slum Doctor Programme is working to give these girls an opportunity at life through secondary education. We have identified the gender-related problems associated with HIV/AIDS and are working to bring education to the young women of Kenya, so they can live a life of freedom, dignity and hope.

The words of Brenda Aoko pierce the silence which has surrounded the issue of women and AIDS for too long. “Educate a girl, educate the whole family, educate the whole nation, educate the whole mankind.”


1 Comment so far
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As a former student of Ombogo Girls Academy, i would like to thank the Slum Doctor Programme for their overwhelming support. Without any input to the lives of these girls, many cannot manage to be where they are at this moment. As i clear my university degree i believe that by the grace of the Almighty God, i shall also be part of the programme to help educate my younger sisters and friends who i left behind at Ombogo. Forever i love and cherish Ombogo Girls Academy.

Comment by Evelyne Akinyi Okatch

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