Celebrating the UN’s ‘day of the girl child’

11 October 2016

Marian loves to walk to school by herself. Until recently, such a simple pleasure seemed impossible for the seven-year-old Kenyan girl.

Marian at school

The challenges Marian faced

Marian has albinism. In her community, it is traditionally believed children with albinism have special healing powers.

Their body parts are often sought after, and sometime harvested and turned into medicine.

Before we intervened, most of her early life was spent hidden away at home for fear of being kidnapped.

Marian was only discovered because her older brother was already at school and their grandmother told his teacher there was another child being kept at home.

The school and our support workers went to the family to discuss bringing Marian to school. Her father had many worries.

In addition to the community seeing his daughter as a potential commodity, for Marian to leave the house she must be completely covered in sunscreen to avoid burning her sensitive skin.

If her skin burns it becomes infected and makes her very sick. Marian’s vision is also impaired. Her family saw no option but to keep her inside.

What the project did

The project workers talked to Marian’s father and the surrounding community to address their concerns and dispel their beliefs about albinism.

They helped them to understand it is a skin-deep condition, and Marian and all others with albinism have exactly the same organs as those without the condition.

Marian’s teacher Monicah Akoto recognises a lot of the important changes begin at home. 

‘Leonard Cheshire Disability have helped Marian’s parents to be even more supportive.’— Monicah, Marian's teacher

In addition to working with her family and the communities to support her education, the team also made sure Marian had practical support when she enrolled in school.

She now has sunscreen so she can walk to school, and no longer has to avoid playing outside with the other children.

Marian was given a magnifying glass and a special desk to help her manage her visual impairment.

We monitor her vision and she was excited upon recently receiving her first pair of glasses.

The difference to Marian's life

Marian’s father is not afraid anymore.

‘The Leonard Cheshire Disability’s Girls Education Challenge has changed my attitude and the attitude of so many people in the community.’— Marian's father

He now takes special interest in her health and education, checking in with her teachers and support workers regularly.

Our work has given Marian a place to learn and play with other children whilst sensitising the community to understand her condition.

Marian enjoys school very much.

‘Now the children know that Marian is just like any other. There is no difference. Nobody will talk about her colour.’

Marian is really enjoying finally being able to mix and get to know her peers.

‘Me and my friends, we play together, we jump rope.’— Marian

Not only is she progressing well in her academic studies, Marian’s confidence has come on leaps and bounds.

For Marian, it feels she can finally work towards achieving her aspirations and she says when she grows up, she wants to be an aeroplane pilot.

We aim to support 100,000 disabled people from Africa and Asia into school or work between 2015 and 2020.

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