Most teenage girls would not be worried about providing for their families at such a young age. Mary, however, was forced to do so when she was only 13 years old. After Mary´s father separated from her mother, they went to live with their grandmother, who supported them financially including paying Mary´s school fees. Unfortunately, when her grandmother died in 2019, Mary had no choice but to drop out of school, leaving her exposed to exploitation.
Even though Mary´s mother did laundry as a way of earning money, it was not enough to sustain the family´s needs. Her mother had remarried but Mary´s stepfather was not always around to support the family. Mary and her 3 younger siblings did not attend school since they had no educational support. Mary and her peers who had also dropped out of school roamed around in the village and the market located in Kenya´s Kwale County. They frequently went to a video den where they would watch videos, some of which were not child-friendly. Bikers, locally known as bodaboda operators, sexually exploited her for more than a year. The men who took advantage of her gave her Ksh.100 (0.79 Euros) in return. “I was not happy with dropping out of school and engaging in sex for material benefits. I want a bright future which is attainable through education.¨ She stated.
A child protection committee member in Mary´s area noticed that Mary was not in school like the rest of the children. After reaching out to her, they discovered that Mary was a victim of sexual exploitation and reported her case to the Department of Children Services. Mary received counselling from the project social workers and the education officer before and after recruiting her into the Building A Future project. Her counselling sessions took place in the months of February, March and May. The sessions covered the importance of education and the need for her to return to school.
The Building A Future project team facilitated Mary´s re-enrolment to school. They supported her with a dignity pack, scholastic materials, school uniforms and paid her school fees. She is currently in grade three and her progress is being monitored through the scheduled home and school visits. Describing her current state, Mary said, ¨Now I can go to school like other children. I feel happy.’’
As for her future dreams, Mary says she wants to be a beautician who specialises in body flower art designs. ¨I hope to be a beautician through the art of flower drawings on my clients and during wedding events. I would also like to own my own saloon specifically for this.¨ She explained with enthusiasm.