24 at 24
My name is Wanja Maina, from Nairobi, Kenya. I am an A World At School Global Youth Ambassador for education, part of a global movement of young leaders working to get every child in school and learning. Right now I am 23 years old and on the 22nd February, I will celebrate my 24th birthday. This time, it’s not business as usual. I feel like I need to make it special and spread the privilege that I have in my life. So for my 24th birthday, I am going to do something for 24 girls with disabilities in primary and secondary school.
To be where I am, I believe I have been highly privileged. My community, my mother and my teachers all support me. I am among the 1% of women with disabilities in the world that has attained this level of literacy. But I am not content. More than 75% of Kenyan youth make it beyond 4th grade but 70% of them still cannot read or write at this age. And just 37% of girls in sub-Saharan Africa are enrolled in secondary schools. More and more girls with disabilities need to enroll and be given the chance to stay in school. Now more than ever I need to do something about it.
On the 20th of February, I will embark on a walk: a 50km walk from Nairobi to Thika to raise money for the school fees of 24 girls with disabilities. I am also doing this to change perceptions of women with disabilities. Mostly they are viewed as victims but this walk will also show the world that we can also be agents of social change.
Wanja Maina, an A World at School Global Youth Ambassador from Kenya
Little data exists for the education status of children with disabilities. The 2013/14 EFA Global Monitoring Report states that there are an estimated 93million children under the age of 14 (or 5.1% of the world’s children) have a disability. And people of working age with disabilities are about one-third less likely to have completed primary school. But what is known is that education can transform girls’ lives and also change the communities around them. Ensuring that all girls complete primary education would mean 1.5 million more children surviving to their fifth birthday and maternal mortality rate would fall by 70%.
In September I climbed Mount Longonot, a tour of 13.5km, to raise funds for Kenyan children with visual impairments. I have participated in many dialogues both on grassroots and international platforms to raise awareness and advocate for the education of girls with a disabilities. But now it is time for action.