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“Building Resilience through face-to-face and mobile mentoring for Girls in Marsabit, Kenya”

We plan to address issues around girls' education in Marsabit, Kenya by using a 2-pronged approach to mentoring.

Photo of James Njuguna
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What problem does your innovation solve?

Consecutive seasons of no rain over the past five years has prevented girls in Chalbi Desert, Marsabit, from attending and/or transitioning through primary school. Girls feel discouraged and demotivated and opt for early marriage to get away from their circumstances. As a result, girls have limited basic literacy and numeracy skills. Our innovation will help to empower girls and build resilience so that they are motivated to stay in school or explore alternative pathways to education.

Explain your innovation.

Our innovation is a 2-pronged mentoring approach that reaches the most marginalized girls in Marsabit. Mentoring will take place at both the school and community level. It will focus on two areas: (1) Increasing transition from lower to upper primary and secondary school: Schools will provide opportunities for face-to-face mentoring sessions between older and younger girls. As an added layer of support, girls will communicate on mobile phones through WhatsApp/SMS. Topics to be covered include life skills and girls' safety. Older girls will also send motivational and inspirational tips to encourage and motivate the younger ones. (2) Improving girls' performance in Science and Mathematics: Girls that excel in mathematics and science will provide support to girls in primary school through both face-to-face meetings and mobile phones. The mobile phone will also be used as a tool to share content related to science and math with the younger girls. Mobile mentoring is especially important in this particular context because it is difficult to provide face-to-face support in all areas of Marsabit due to distance. It provides girls with opportunities to receive continuous support so that there is no gap between holidays and when school ends and resumes the following year. Our goal is to empower and inspire girls by connecting them with other girls who have overcome barriers, so they can provide social-emotional and academic support.

Who benefits?

At the school level the project will train 136 mentors from classes 7 and 8; 6 from each of the 23 primary schools in Chalbi Desert. Each mentor will provide support to 2 girls (total of 272 girls) and 30 members of School Girl Clubs in a group. A total of 966 girls between the ages of 14 and 16 (in grades 4 to 6) when girls are very likely to drop out of school, will benefit from this mentoring initiative. In addition to this, 46 mentors in secondary schools will be trained and facilitated to visit girls in primary schools once a term and use mobile phones to mentor 934 girls in classes 7 and 8. These mentors will also conduct mentoring sessions for class 7 and 8 girls in their villages. A total of 1,900 girls will benefit at school and community level over the next 5 years.

How is your innovation unique?

Mentoring has been tried in Marsabit, but our 2-pronged approach of mentoring is unique in this context. The combination of face-to-face and mobile mentoring ensures that girls receive continuous support, not just when schools are in session. The phones can also be used as a tool to improve learning by sharing resources and downloading math and science content, as well as other subject related content. It is one of the most cost-efficient technological interventions to support girls in emergency contexts. Teachers for Teachers has piloted a project in Kakuma Refugee Camp that provides mentoring opportunities for teachers. Mobile phones are used to encourage and support teachers in the camp and provide them with ideas to develop their teaching capacity. There has been positive feedback and we feel that if it has improved the lives of teachers and students in that context, than our 2-pronged mentoring approach will benefit the girls in Marsabit.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the idea?

Are girls comfortable in using mobile phones to have discussions? Will WhatsApp or SMS be the best platform to use? Will mobile service be strong in all areas where the girls live and migrate to over the holidays? In addition to the training, what other support will mentors need? What data can we collect to learn more about the impact? How will we monitor the type/number of conversations that girls have?

Tell us more about you.

Concern Worldwide is an international humanitarian organization dedicated to tackling poverty and suffering in the world’s poorest countries. We work in partnership with the very poorest people in these countries, directly enabling them to improve their lives, as well as using our knowledge and experience to influence decisions made at a local, national and international level that can significantly reduce extreme poverty. We currently work in 26 countries.

What is the primary type of emergency setting where your innovation would operate?

  • Extreme drought

Emergency Setting - Elaborate

Chalbi Desert in North Horr Sub County is the most arid part of Arid and Semi-Arid Marsabit County. Chalbi is experiencing an increase in the frequency of drought, with consecutive seasons of failed rains over the past five years - since 2012. According to the short rains assessment report February 2017, North Horr is classified as being in the crisis phase in Integrated Food Security Phase Classification phase. In February 2017, the National Government declared the drought an emergency.

Where will your innovation be implemented?

The innovation will be implemented in Chalbi Desert in North Horr Sub County in Marsabit.

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

In-country Networks

In Marsabit, Concern Worldwide is a convener of the Marsabit Education Stakeholder Forum. Between 2015 and 2016, we participated in the development of a strategic plan for the National Council for Nomadic Education in Kenya (NACONEK). At national level, Concern Worldwide has a strong working relationship with the Ministry of Education. In 2016, we successfully lobbied for setting up guidelines for registration of Alternative Providers of Basic Education and Training (APBET).

Sector Expertise

  • I've worked in a sector related to my innovation for more than a year.

Sector Expertise - Elaborate

Concern Worldwide is dedicated to reducing suffering and fighting hunger and poverty. Concern Worldwide has worked in Kenya since 2003, supporting nutrition, livelihoods, HIV/AIDS and education initiatives. It has significant experience working with communities to transform attitudes to education, including a track record of improving access and quality of education for girls in Kenya. I have 7 years teaching experience and 16 years in community development and education programming.

Innovation Maturity

  • Early Stage Innovation: I am exploring my innovation, refining, researching, and gathering inspiration.

Organization Status

  • We are a registered non-profit, charity, NGO, or community-based organization.

Organization Location

In Kenya, the office is located in Nairobi.



Join the conversation:

Photo of Raheema Hemraj

I think that this is a wonderful initiative and it is impressive to see how many girls the project can reach. I also applaud the idea of using a peer group (the 'older' girls, in this case) to provide mentorship, as this ensures mentors have a real understanding of the specific circumstances that the girls are in and hopefully enhances the success of the program.

I do have a question surrounding the cell phones - will you also be providing the mobile phones to the participants or are they expected to have their own phones?


Photo of James Njuguna

Thank you for your message Raheema. We really hope that the older girls will be good role models for the younger girls and encourage them to stay in school. It is always good to learn from someone that has been in the same situation and has managed to overcome the barriers.

That is a good question - about the cell phones. Some girls will have them, but most will not, so we have to factor that into our planning. We will also have to consider providing them with enough airtime to engage in activities. We are exploring ideas around this.