A new report by global humanitarian organization Mercy Corps examines the role of adolescent girls in Kenya’s pastoralist communities, finding that their contribution to household and community food security is critical and grows during times of crisis. With Kenya facing reoccurring drought and hunger, Mercy Corps advises the development community to evaluate the role adolescent girls play in strengthening their communities and adjust programming to meet the needs of this key demographic.
“Adolescent girls have long been overlooked as potential agents of change in pastoralist communities,” says Lynn Renken, Kenya Country Director for Mercy Corps. “To help these communities prepare for and adapt to reoccurring crises such as drought, we must identify the barriers and opportunities adolescent girls face as care takers, income providers and future wives and mothers.”
The Mercy Corps report is based on focus group discussions and interviews conducted in more than 20 communities in Turkana County, Kenya, in April 2014. The study draws a comparison between pastoralist girls and girls living in communities transitioning out of pastoralism, complementing Mercy Corps’ 2014 research in the Sahel that illustrates the powerful influence gender dynamics have on household and community resilience.
“Despite all of the interest and investment in resilience over the past five years, adolescent girls are often absent from food security projects,” says Renken. “The development community must prioritize the critical role that women and girls play so we can leverage their potential to strengthen vulnerable pastoralist communities from within.”
The report makes several recommendations for additional research and program adjustment, including reinforcing pastoralist girls’ capacities to diversify their sources of food and income during crisis and addressing the social and economic drivers of early marriage. Read or download the full report, Wealth and Warriors: Adolescents in the Face of Drought in Turkana, Kenya. About Mercy Corps
Mercy Corps is a leading global humanitarian agency saving and improving lives in the world’s toughest places.