A Holistic Approach
Four Pillars for Success
In order to eliminate child marriage and FGM, we need to address the root causes in order to achieve sustainable change.
We build a strong foundation for impact by supporting holistic, community-engaged, evidence-based strategies and programs that work collectively across four pillars:
Mekuno Project supports access to quality education via advocacy at local and national levels. Our partners collaborate with the Kenyan government to fulfill its legal mandate to ensure children have access to high-quality schooling. For vulnerable girls and boys, we directly provide school fees and other personal supports such as Dignity Kits, school uniforms, and supplies, so they can stay in school and learn without interruption. When resources are not otherwise made available in the areas we work, we will also co-invest with the government in critical infrastructure, including menstruation washrooms, dormitories, rescue centers, and access to clean water.
Pillar 1: Quality Education
Access to a quality education opens doors to previously unimaginable possibilities for a girl, helping break the cycle of poverty and the related cycles of child marriage and FGM. Schools offer safe havens for girls in communities that practice FGM: The longer a girl stays in school, the less likely she is to be married.
Alternative Rite of Passage offers a non-violent alternative to celebrating the transition from girlhood to womanhood. In Kenya, FGM is a cultural ritual signifying a girl’s rite of passage into womanhood. It is seen as necessary in order to be considered a “pure” and acceptable wife. The co-creation of an “Alternative Rite of Passage” (ARP) with local communities educates children on the dangers of FGM , while also offering an alternative ritual that ushers girls into womanhood, affirms their cultural and tribal feminine identity, and encourages them to complete their secondary education. ARP also educates boys on FGM’s physical and psychological toll, urging them to use their community influence to prevent the practice on relatives, friends, and future wives and daughters.
Youth Mobilization: Children’s Clubs offer girls and boys a community-based opportunity to engage on issues that affect them. The clubs are based on a structure of child-to-child accountability, promoting life skills such as friendship-building, decision-making, and conflict resolution.
Channels of Hope catalyzes personal transformation among faith, community, and government leaders, providing them with the educational tools to become anti-FGM/child marriage champions in the communities where they hold influence. Faith communities become centers for justice dedicated to protecting against gender abuse.
Youth Mobilization: The Children’s Assembly is an advocacy forum and leadership development module wherein girls and boys from Mekuno’s project areas come together to debate and discuss child protection issues. In addition to developing policy recommendations, which are delivered to local government bodies, the Children’s Assembly teaches children responsibility, creates a cohesive community of young leaders, and promotes core values such as honesty.
Pillar 2: Child Protection & Voice
FGM and child marriage are internationally recognized forms of gender-based violence against girls, violating their well-being, and infringing upon their human rights. Mekuno Project addresses gender-based violence and strengthens child protection systems at the community level. Even more, it equips girls and boys with the tools and platforms to influence change in their communities, empowering children to play an active role in putting a stop to FGM and child marriage—creating hope-filled futures for themselves and their peers.
Pillar 3: Community Transformation
For decades and decades, men and women in Kenya have been limited by the grinding pressures of living in extreme generational poverty. Boys and girls have been kept from school and put to work—or cut and married off—in order to help keep their families alive. Under these conditions, self-worth, personal agency and voice, and growing into one’s own potential have been frequently discouraged, if not impossible. This continues to be the case in communities that still practice FGM and child marriage, constraining what many adults imagine to be possible for themselves and for their children’s futures. Mekuno Project expands these imaginative possibilities by expanding the sense of self-worth and capability of men and women, girls and boys. We create opportunities for individuals and communities to experience the magic of their own potential: They come to take action on causes of personal concern and to see themselves in a new light—more capable, more valuable, more worthy—and in turn, inspire others to do the same.
The Empowered Worldview model, originally developed by World Vision, is foundational to addressing the mindset challenges of extreme poverty which keeps people rooted in harmful traditions such as child marriage and FGM. Transformative, exponential change requires unlocking an individual’s potential to be part of the solution: and that potential cannot be realized unless each person sees the world as a place where they are valued and capable. This perspective allows participants to gain a worldview of empowerment — one in which they know they are valued by God and can play a powerful role in authoring their own stories and can overcome obstacles. It seeks to break individuals’ over-reliance on government or development organizations, replacing a dependency mindset with a deepened appreciation of personal agency, freedom, and responsibility. This mindset shift helps individuals and communities learn to navigate and negotiate the resources they need to influence their financial and social circumstances. Community development often ignores the vital role that faith plays in people’s lives and how they view the world. Globally, more than 8 out of 10 people claim a connection with a specific religious belief, so ignoring this element of people’s lives means we are missing a vital key to effective development. World Vision developed the Empowered World View to span multiple faiths: Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Hinduism. It has served as a critical reason faith leaders from different religions have come together to work in their broader communities, as it has built a shared message and framework for positive change and growth.
Community Change is a long-term intervention focused on sustained and facilitated conversations among community members—usually involving 40 to 60 participants—over 20 or more sessions. Community members discuss the beliefs, norms, and traditional practices that support or challenge their community’s progress toward improving the well-being of children, and develop their own plans for social change.
Celebrating Families creates a forgiving, compassionate environment for parents and caregivers to revisit their pasts, with an eye towards developing healing family relationships in the present. Through guided introspection, adult guardians become more aware of how their upbringing influences the way that they raise their children, and have the opportunity to be educated on ways to improve their parenting skills.
Citizen Voice and Action is a local-level approach to advocacy that educates citizens about their rights, equipping them with a simple set of tools that empower them to hold the government accountable in fulfilling its obligations. This kind of civic engagement has proven essential to improving access to and delivery of services that help child survivors of violence heal from their trauma and seek justice in appropriate venues.
Pillar 4: Economic Empowerment
Families are less likely to choose child marriage and FGM when economic pressures are reduced and opportunities are generated for them to lift themselves out of poverty. Livelihoods are improved as new techniques, technologies, and value-chains are introduced, producing greater yields and profits for the family. Women previously employed as circumcisers become entrepreneurs and advocates as they are empowered through an education that equips them for different livelihoods. Marginalized girls grow into empowered young women when taught the foundational skills to become entrepreneurs or transition into the Kenyan workforce. Mekuno Project funds programs across all of these areas.
Savings 4 Transformation (S4T) assists in the development of “savings groups” of 15 to 25 people who own, manage, and operate small communal funds and loans. It builds resilience by enabling community members to hone practical skills and gain access to funds, which can then be directed towards recovering from household emergencies and developing long-term coping strategies — with a particular focus on the health and nutrition of their children, as well as investment in their own livelihoods. These groups become safety nets for their members, creating a greater sense of agency and trust within communities. To enhance innovation, members are also trained on business skills and entrepreneurship as well as linked to external financial institutions to support their self-driven endeavors.
Improving Livelihoods and Assets is a process conducted in every project area to determine the most viable opportunities to help transform subsistence farming and animal husbandry into small-businesses, where excess produce can be sold for a profit. New techniques and technologies are introduced and value chains developed. Once these businesses are established, we connect people and form producer groups that help maximize profits. Livestock (beef cattle, chicken, goats), crops (maize, sorghum, beans, vegetables), and honey feature prominently in our two project areas of West Pokot and Baringo counties. At times, we support farmers with the procurement of livestock, pulse seeds (cowpeas, green grams, sorghum, beans), and/or vegetable seeds (onions, kale, tomatoes) or small irrigation for vegetable production. This process is enabled by Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture and Enterprise Development.
Improving Reformed Cutters’ Livelihoods works specifically with women who have made their living circumcising girls, supporting them in developing new skills and in finding new opportunities to earn an income in agriculture, sewing, and other small business pursuits.
‘HER Lab’ is a 10-month post-high school program which provides rural adolescent girls with pathways to employment and dedicated mentors. They learn how to assess their strengths and link them to career / entrepreneurship opportunities. They also learn how to access higher education programs, scholarships, and loans. Throughout the program, their communities’ benefit through a ‘group’ give back project designed to educate community members. Over the past 8 years, ‘HER Lab’ has grown from a pilot in West Pokot, Kenya, to a movement attracting the engagement of community leaders, governments, the private sector, foundations, NGOs and UN Agencies. The ‘HER Lab’ Model is designed to leverage already existing infrastructures in rural communities.It is comprised of: The solar-powered ‘Tech Hub’ with 50 computer workstations, The ‘Celebrity Chef Corner’ (Kitchen/Dining Facility where catering skills are learned), The ‘Farm-to-Table Conservatory’ (Farm, Greenhouse and Beekeeping), The Artisan Skills Studio, and a dormitory.
Each year, 100 high school graduates from West Pokot, East Pokot, Baringo and Turkana counties enter ‘HER Lab’, where they board while gaining skills such as coding, digital skills, entrepreneurship, agriculture, plumbing, electrical wiring, tailoring, catering, beadwork, and hair design. Life skills are also integrated into the ‘HER Lab’ curriculum – leadership, financial literacy, reproductive health, communication skills, networking, and presentation skills are among them.