In Pictures

Kenyan girls look to the future

To mark UN International Day of the Girl Child, Jeremy Tan and Ella Dickinson went to Kenya on behalf of Compassion UK to picture the lives of girls growing up in poverty.

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Siyianta, 13, Mashuru

Siyianta Image copyright Jeremy Tan & Ella Dickinson
  • Home: The chores I do and the struggles my parents go through to help us
  • Strength: My ability to read, as I know this will help my parents
  • Fear: I have no fear except of wild animals

There are times in the evening when I have to fetch firewood but I haven't finished my homework and I feel so bad because I haven't finished the teacher's work.

Before school, I milk the cows and wash clothes and utensils.

If I run to school, I can make it in two hours.

Strength enables us to choose education over marriage.

Nowadays the community is starting to see early marriage is a bad thing, little by little. But there are a few who still accept it.

When I finish my studies, I want to be a doctor to help the sick in my community, not even just the community, even in Kenya, even the whole country.

I would stop children from being married off when they are young, and I would build more boarding schools for girls.

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Beatrice, 16, Mashuru

Beatrice Image copyright Jeremy Tan & Ella Dickinson
  • Your past: I don't like life in the past
  • Water: Life
  • Your voice: Loud

I live with 14 people in my home.

Because my parents do casual agricultural work, we are not able to build a good house and this is difficult for us as a family.

Because our home is crowded, I don't have space to do my homework.

Sometimes, I go to my neighbour's home, where there is more space, so I can get it completed.

My family doesn't see my education as a good thing.

I want my daughter to become educated so her house would be a good house.

She would be able to sleep in a good bed that is not made of cow skin, and she would go to a good school.

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Abigael, 16, Mashuru

Abigael Image copyright Jeremy Tan & Ella Dickinson
  • Your confidence: Being able to work for myself
  • Creativity: Cooking and baking
  • Beauty: Being smart

One of the happiest days of my life was when my father built a good house.

We moved out of the mud house and into a brick house in Mororo, and we had a big ceremony with our friends.

But I remember a day when I was scared because my parents went to visit my grandparents.

They left me home alone with my brother for one week. I was 10 years old.

The circumcision of girls is a challenging issue.

When you circumcise a girl, a girl can bleed until she is dead.

I'm not married now, but I'd like to be in the future.

I want to live in a world where circumcision does not exist and where my daughter won't have to be circumcised.

My hope is to be a catering teacher.

I will teach people how to cook and how to bake cakes.

I think if I am strong, I will have a greater future, because confidence can mean having your own job and making your own plans.

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Rachael, 16, Mashuru

Rachael Image copyright Jeremy Tan & Ella Dickinson
  • Home: Just a place
  • Purpose: To have a clear vision
  • Voice: Soprano

I still remember the day our house fell apart and we had to sleep in the kitchen outside, all five of us - my mother, my two brothers, one sister and me.

There are good things about living in this community.

There are nearby water points and a good availability of vegetables along the river.

But the challenge here is that children's rights are violated and girls are exposed to harmful cultural practices.

Then, when someone gets sick, they use herbal medicine.

Girls and boys are not equal.

A woman's role in this community is to bring up children and follow rules in the community.

I think girls should get their confidence from education and from working hard in school. That is why my goal is to be a teacher.

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Talash, 16, Mashuru

Talash Image copyright Jeremy Tan & Ella Dickinson
  • Past: A story
  • Fear: Exams
  • Your voice: Using it to teach

The proudest moment of my life was when I qualified for the Compassion National Athletics Tournament. I was competing in the 100m sprint.

My strength is running.

My confidence is running.

For me to have purpose means to set a goal and work hard towards achieving that goal.

I have seen that if a girl is strong, she can be a good role model.

I know that here and all over the world, boys and girls do not have equal access to education.

In the future, I would like to see girls growing up in good environments, because to me, a perfect world is a world where children's rights are adhered to.

There would be no corruption, and people would live in peace with each other.

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Saayion, 14, Mashuru

Saayion Image copyright Jeremy Tan & Ella Dickinson
  • Strength: My strength is found in God
  • Hunger: Drought
  • Creativity: Using your mind

I live with my grandmother, and I have two brothers and one sister, and I have lived here for seven years.

I can still remember the day she adopted us.

Both of my parents have passed away.

One of the most challenging things is living in a small room with one bed, the four of us together.

My grandmother is so old, but she tries to work for us so that we can live comfortably.

I like this neighbourhood because when people are in need, we help each other, even though our neighbour's goats ate the beans in our farm.

We also like to celebrate the birth of children.

When children are born, we gather neighbours and family together and have food and drink all together.

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"We wanted the girls to choose their poses and have some direction over the images. We asked where they would like to be photographed, and we wanted their portraits to reveal something of their characters," said Australian-born Jeremy Tan.

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Carol, 14, Gatina

Carol Image copyright Jeremy Tan & Ella Dickinson
  • Water: Treated
  • Past: Difficult, my life is now easier
  • Your voice: People like listening to me when I sing

I live with my aunt in Nairobi and my two cousins.

I had to move here and leave my mum who lives in a rural area.

My mum is sick and bed-ridden, so I wasn't able to go to school.

Now I am at school here in Nairobi, my favourite thing to do is to read storybooks and history books.

And I'm proud of my school performance.

I performed as the second best in my whole school.

My hope is to be a banker, I will even try to raise the economy of Kenya.

When I am older, I will take the young people and advise them about corruption and tell them not to follow those leaders.

I will go to the media in Kenya and tell them not to be corrupt.

I know I can help others who don't have an education.

The purpose of a leader is to help people who are in need of help.

I believe that a woman can lead this country just as well as a man can lead this country.

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Esther, 14, Mathare

Esther Image copyright Jeremy Tan & Ella Dickinson
  • Creativity: I love to sew on a sewing machine. I can make dresses and curtains
  • Hunger: The memory of my house burning down
  • Laughter: All my laughter was when I was young

My father is a casual labourer. He carries and sells things, like mattresses. My mother is a cook at a hotel in Eastleigh.

Robbery is common here in Mathare.

We had a TV in our small house, and the robbers came at night, and they sprayed some gas into the house, and it made us fall asleep.

They took our TV, and we didn't know.

There was also a time when the houses were burnt.

We slept outside in the cold.

We would wake up, and there was nothing to eat.

It was burnt because of people making illegal connections with the electrical wires. I was 12 years old then.

It's not a good place for children.

Desperation makes people do desperate things.

It is important for girls to feel beautiful.

If someone tells you that you are ugly, you can tell them you are beautiful only if you know in your heart that you're beautiful.

True beauty comes from education.

We are the ones who can show the younger girls how to carry themselves.

We can help direct them.

Being strong for us girls is as important as having good self-esteem.

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Valary, 13, Gatina

Valary Image copyright Jeremy Tan & Ella Dickinson
  • Fear: When other people want to kill others
  • Creativity: Drawing
  • Future: Doctor

My mum got a job here in Nairobi as a house-help, and so we moved here to be with her.

It's my first time in Nairobi, and I like it here, I don't miss home, I'm happy here.

There are shops around, and there are lots of people all the time.

Now, if I am sent to buy something or go somewhere, there are lots of people walking around, so I am not alone.

But also, I don't like the dust here, and when it rains, there is so much mud.

The roof of our house leaks, so when it rains, things get wet.

I want to be a doctor.

When others get sick, they will need treatment, and I will do this by working hard in school and focusing every day.

I will go to the place where doctors are trained so I can see how they learn to be doctors, and I'll visit hospitals to see the processes of people being treated.

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Mary, 14, Mathare

Mary Image copyright Jeremy Tan & Ella Dickinson
  • Education: What I'm learning about at the moment and knowing how far it will take me
  • Fear: Snakes, but there aren't many around here
  • Confidence: The things that I can do without fear

We live in Dandora now, and my older siblings are married.

My dad is a taxi driver, and my mum stays at home, and I'm the only child who lives at home.

We live with my brother's wife, my mum, my dad, and my brother's wife has a child who lives with us.

I was born in Mathare and grew up here until the post-election violence in 2007.

I was still small then, I was only five years old.

I don't remember it too well because my mum took me to stay with my aunt, away from the violence.

If a girl thinks that she's not beautiful, she will always be down, she will think people don't love her.

The one that knows that she's beautiful will always be courageous, and she will know she can do something, she can do anything.

True beauty comes from one's heart.

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An exhibition of the work, entitled Any Girl, can be seen at the G11@oxo space on London's Southbank 12-16 October 2016.

All photographs by Jeremy Tan and Ella Dickinson / Compassion UK.

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