Kenya: Teresa's Story
This month our country of focus is Kenya, where World Vision’s Strong Women, Strong World initiative is coming alongside communities to raise awareness of children’s rights, create environments that protect children, and build and strengthen the capacity of local organizations that respond to abuse so children suffering harm are supported. World Vision is increasing children’s access to an education—opening doors of opportunity for them, and providing an alternative to FGM, early marriage, and child labor.
Teresa Cheptoo is a former World Vision-sponsored child from Kenya who has been influential to young girls in Kenya by advocating against female genital mutilation (FGM) and encouraging girls towards education. She grew up in Pokot, Kenya, a community that practices FGM on girls age 10-13 to prepare them for marriage, and at which point most girls’ education ends.
At age 12, Teresa risked being beaten and ridiculed by her community to take a stand against this practice by leading clubs through a World Vision anti-FGM campaign where she recruited over 200 boys and girls in 13 schools in Kenya to educate their communities about the negative consequences of FGM. Because of her leadership and impact on girls in her country, Teresa was invited to speak with World Vision at the UN’S Commission on the Status of Women in 2007 against FGM, and she also won a $15,000 Children of the Year award from UNICEF. She distributed the entire amount back to her community in Kenya which paid for girls’ school fees, created a resource center and provided desks for primary schools.
Teresa is now in her second year of university where she majors in gender, women and development studies. She remains a committed leader and role model to young girls to refuse FGM and embrace education. This year, she got a second opportunity to participate in the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women in New York where she spoke on behalf of the Kenyan government representing the voice of survivors in advocating against FGM and strategies for abandoning the practice.
According to World Vision evaluation reports in the West Pokot region of Kenya since 2009:
– Female genital mutilation(FGM) declined 80 percent. Trends have also shifted where there are no longer public ceremonies of FGM, so if it is done it’s done in secret.
– Girls’ enrollment in school has increased 27 percent
– School drop-out rate for girls has decreased 17 percent
And what happened with the $15,000 award money that Teresa distributed to her community in 2007?
– Funded 28 girls to go to secondary school and 3 girls to go to college, and they’ve now all graduated!
– A library was built for girls to have a safe place to study
Join us in celebrating Teresa and her passionate work.