TİKA Supports Girls Education through “Wheels of Empowerment” Project in Kenya

The Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA), has distributed bicycles to 200 girls who walk for kilometres to  get to school in Kenya, aiming to facilitate their education in Kakamega sports event.

The event, the 3rd Kakamega Forest Marathon, the first and only marathon and cycling race in the rainforest in the world, attracted great attention from the public  and strengthened partnerships between both countries in sports and education. The two countries  have contested in sports this year during different occasions. Last week  at the 39th Istanbul Marathon, Kenyan  Woman  athlete  Ruth Chepng'tich and male runner Abraham Kiprotich won the race. While in July, Kenya  hosted the World Under 18 Championship of the International Athletics Federation, where Turkish female athlete Mizgin Ay won the 100 meter final in the World Star Athletics competition.

In the Kakamega Forest Marathon event, two countries celebrated friendship.  In a ceremony held with the Kakamega Forest Heritage Foundation in the County of Kakamega in the western part of Kenya , high school students living in villages were given bicycles.

In rural Kenya, children face myriad challenges to education including poor infrastructure, poverty and gender inequality. Early marriages and child labour can prematurely end a girl’s education. The country has amongst the highest secondary school dropout rates among girls. The cost of traversing along winding roads for several kilometres and safety concerns during the often long commute deters rural families from sending their children to school.

Especially in Western Kenya, accessing education is a challenge for many schoolchildren, in large part because many of them have to travel more than 5 kilometres just to get to school.  Some of the students in the agricultural county of Kakamega leave home by 5 am, reach school by going through a mountainous region, and get back home only after 8 pm.

Towards elimination of gender disparities in secondary school education and achieving gender equity in education, TIKA has partnered with the Kakamega Heritage Foundation, to provide 200 bicycles to girls from Holy Cross Injira Secondary School and Lugala Secondary School. This gesture is aimed at enabling access to education; reducing the time taken to go to school and improving secondary school enrolment and retention among adolescent girls.

Kenya Environment Minister Judy Wakhungu, Kakamega  MP  Elsie Muhanda and approximately 8,000 invited students and parents attended the ceremony.

During the ceremony Emre Yuksek, TIKA’s head in the capital Nairobi, affirmed that the bike donation is meant to promote gender parity in accessing quality education for girls in the remote town.  "Education comes first,” he said.  “As a generous donor, Turkey is helping partner countries in various fields.

TIKA Nairobi Coordinator Yüksek also highlighted that: "In the education sector, we have different projects in different counties, such as the improvement of the physical infrastructure of schools, providing  books and equipment, establishing laboratories.  We want to increase the contributions of Turkey to  Kenya  in the key sector of education hoping to establish long term relations with these schools and students.

Yuksek said Kenya has among the world’s highest secondary school dropout rates among girls, a problem linked to poor infrastructure, poverty, gender inequality, early marriage, and child labour. He said that by donating the 200 bicycles, TIKA hopes to improve girls' access to education in rural Kenya. “Empowered girls are key to breaking the cycle of poverty for families and promoting a healthier and prosperous society."

Minister Wakhungu thanked the TIKA and  Turkish Government for their contribution to the girls, saying that education of the girls was  key to creating social change and development  and breaking the intergenerational cycle of  poverty . Through his gesture from the Turkish Government, she  hop hopes to see  a decrease in levels of drop-outs.

One of the recipient girls,  Diana Mulemi, a 16-year-old girl who lives in Shinyalu township also expressed her gratitude. She said that to get to school, she had to walk for more than an hour down valleys and up steep hills, across a river and down a steep slope, and in the evening would get home late with no time to study, only to wake up early the next morning to fetch firewood and start all over again.

"Things were bad, most of my friends dropped out of school, but for me I just held on,” she said, leaning on freshly kiln-baked bricks at her home.

“In the morning and at night it’s not safe for us, we don't have time to do anything, and then at times we run into men on the roads, who harass us. Some girls agree to marry early and drop out of school, while some like me use longer routes to school to avoid those areas."  But her new bike will change all that, she explained.

"Now that I have my bicycle, I’ll be able to manage my time and get to class fast. We’re going back to school next year on January 3 and I’m looking forward to changing my life with the bikes that we’ve been given by the Turkish people.

“I want to be a doctor, and the bikes will help me improve my studies because I won’t sleep in class anymore as I won’t be tired and I’ll be able to concentrate."  

Like Mulemi, hundreds of other girls on Saturday gathered in the heart of the Kakamega forest at a clearing where the 200 bicycles had been placed, each girl beaming to go home with a bicycle that will change their lives.

Agnes Lukelesia, one of the first bike beneficiaries, said that with an extra backseat she will be able to give a ride to a friend who lives close to her school.  She thanked her Turkish benefactors, adding, "I hope to one day study medicine in Turkey".