Susan, 16, was forced to drop out of school when she was only 14 years old. Due to the tough times and unstable family situation, she stayed home for two years and never imagined she would one day step into a classroom again. Sadly, Susan was sexually exploited; a situation that nearly ruined her life.
Susan, her elder brother and her mother live in Kwale County along the coastline of Kenya. The family resides in a small temporary house that has both makuti (grass) thatched roofing and makuti walls. The family's main source of income is subsistence farming mainly maize and cassava, on 1.5 hectares and makes at least 8.5 Euros during harvesting season. Her absentee father would come home once in a while as he migrated to Western Kenya in June 2021 after having frequent disagreements with his wife. This forced Susan's brother to take up the responsibility of fending for the family. As a motorcycle operator, he could only bring home 0.82 Euros as the big portion of the daily income (2.9 Euros) would be taken by the motorcycle owner. When Susan was 12, her mother suffered from partial mental illness. The illness was so extreme to the point that she would get lost in unknown places forcing Susan and the neighbours to search for her. The family's poor economic situation could not allow her to seek adequate medical attention and she only visited traditional herbalists.
At 14 years, Susan’s school attendance became irregular. Her ill mother was unable to pay her annual school fees. As days passed by, the situation at home became extremely tough as the family's income could not cater for their basic needs. Susan consequently dropped out of school in 2019 with no hope of ever stepping back into a classroom.
With each passing day, Susan wondered if one-day things would change. At home, she would only get one meal in a day and lacked essentials such as sanitary towels. The more she waited the harder the situation became. With no meaningful activities to engage in and poor parenting, Susan started attending night weddings. Eventually, she began to have secret meetings with older men (25-35 years) and would only come back home after two to three days. Sadly, Susan was sexually exploited by these men who would give her approximately 2.6 Euros, a situtation that continued for two long dreadful years of her life. “My past situation was bad, ¨I had lost hope in life due to the family financial struggles ,” Susan recalls.
One day, the area Child Protection Volunteer (CPV) noticed Susan was not in school and decided to follow up. The CPV shared Susan´s case with the Building A Future project team who were identifying targeted participants and she was listed as one of the beneficiaries.
Thereafter, Susan received advice and counselling sessions. Her brother, the current family breadwinner, was also enrolled for a three-day entrepreneurship training in October 2021. After completing the training, he was supported with a start-up capital of 171 Euros to start a fish business to support the family. Fortunately, the business picked up well and he now gets between 4.3 to 6 Euros in a day. Speaking of the support, Susan said, ‘Through the project, my family has improved its economic status, we have a fish business that is now earning the family some money and we can save for essential needs.’’
Ever since Susan was identified in February 2021, she has been supported with scholastic materials, school uniforms and payment of school levies amounting to 13.24 Euros. In March 2021, Susan enrolled back in school. According to the recent project team school visits done quarterly, Susan’s ways have equally changed as she stopped keeping bad company, her school performance has improved and she finds it convenient to attend school regularly as she does not lack anything. Susan is not only grateful for the second chance to step into a classroom but has great ambitions for the future. ‘I would like to be a high school teacher after completing my studies and be a role model to children in my community,’ Susan said happily. To date, the TdH NL´s BAF project has identified and supported 124 (113 girls, 11 boys) younger survivors of sexual exploitation in Kilifi County.