When beads mean child marriage – How Giving Hope For them is helping to stop child marriages

When Anjelina feels overwhelmed, she sits down under a tree and breathes deeply.

Her own two feet brought her to this classroom in Kakuma, Kenya. She walked 90 km over three days to get here. All because of the beads.

Beads: small, decorative objects formed in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials, often woven together to make jewelry.

In some communities in Kenya, beads have a special significance. Known as Shanga in Swahili, beads symbolize a girl’s availability for marriage.

This was the tradition in Anjelina’s community. The 14-year-old is from a town in north-west Kenya, where her family lives in a small hut without electricity or running water. The town is in one of the poorest counties in all of Kenya, with 72 percent of the population living in poverty.

Many of the residents are pastoralists, living nomadic lifestyles. In the village communities, the beading tradition and early marriage contribute heavily to violations of the rights of girls.

Rejecting the beading tradition

“My first time putting on traditional beads was at the age of 12,” Anjelina says.

“When a girl turns 13 years old, she is forced to marry. I felt like my life was going to be bad if I took the traditional beads. So I rejected them.”

In 2020, Anjelina heard about the Giving Hope For Them(GHFT) education classes on the radio and became inspired to go to school. Her parents accepted her decision, but her journey towards the classroom was not easy.

Managing stress and pursuing dreams

A key part of the accelerated learning approach is the Better Learning Programme (BLP). BLP supports children’s recovery from the trauma of conflict and displacement, and improves their conditions for learning. BLP is one of Anjelina’s favorite classes because it helps her manage stress.

“I like how BLP has helped me in resolving some of the problems that I encounter,” explains Anjelina.

“This is what we’ve learned from our teacher: if I’m feeling stressed, I go under a tree and start breathing in and out. If I don’t find a tree nearby, I play with my friends instead. Now, when someone tries to provoke me, I leave and start singing gospel music.”

The Better Learning Programme (BLP)

BLP supports children’s recovery from the trauma of conflict and displacement and improves their conditions for learning. The programme offers psychosocial support to displaced and conflict-affected children enrolled in educational activities.

BLP consists of three phases:

a general, classroom-based psychosocial support approach targeted at all children and young people

a small-group intervention to support academic resilience

a specialised, clinical approach to address nightmares, which many children experience as chronic symptom of traumatic stress

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