Where it all began

Mother Esther School and Rescue Center was founded when 26 young women demanded a better life and a brighter future for themselves. In December 2015, these girls, ages 12-14 years, fled their rural homes for fear they would be forced into child marriage like so many of their peers. They ran to Loodokilani PCEA Church to seek sanctuary and searched specifically for Reverend Charles Maina, a vocal advocate for the rights of girls and women in the area. The Loodokilani congregation responded by turning their church sanctuary into a dormitory and classroom for the girls – a place where they could learn and grow in safety.

Mother Esther School is a ministry of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa located in Kajiado Presbytery and supported by PCEA members and congregations throughout Kenya.

By the end of 2017, Mother Esther School and Rescue Center had grown into a center that has welcomed and supported more than 70 girls in their journey of education and empowerment. The original sanctuary has become a library and the compound has grown to include 4 classrooms, dormitory, dining hall, rescue home, and house for the teachers. It is a thriving center of hope and possibility for the girls and the surrounding community.

Everything Mother Esther School is today and everything it will become is based on the courage and resilience of those young women who stood up (or rather ran away) to declare that they are made in God’s image and deserve the future of freedom and possibility that God intends for every human being. The story of those young women remains the center of the mission of Mother Esther School: to give girls the safety and power to choose a future for themselves.

Why the name Mother Esther?

Mama Esther was the wife of Mzee Daniel Lenkutsidai. They married in 1925 and were blessed with eleven children. Mama Esther was a woman who loved the Lord and her family with her whole heart, and she was a devoted member of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa. Through the example of her love and compassion, Mama Esther’s husband, Daniel came to know the Lord as well, and he was baptized in 1931.

Eventually, Daniel Lenkutsidai generously donated ten acres of land to the Presbyterian Church, and that land is where the sanctuary of Loodokilani PCEA Church was built. Mother Esther School and Rescue Center is named after Daniel’s wife, Mama Esther, whose love and faithfulness laid the foundation for this ministry.

Understanding Child Marriage

Child marriage is defined by the UN Population Fund as a marriage where either person is under 18-years of age.

Why does child marriage happen?

It can be hard to imagine why parents would agree to marry off their child, but for many of the families we work with, child marriage can seem like the only option.

In Kajiado County, Kenya, there are a variety of factors that contribute to child marriage:

  • Girls often come from very rural areas where their families struggle with generational poverty, which can be exacerbated by drought and high birth rates.
  • Girls also face strong cultural traditions which affirm and encourage the marriage of young girls to much older men.  It is very common for girls to be married when they finish primary school between the age of 12-14.
  • Girls bring in a dowry of cows and cash to their father, so if a girl is married off, the parents have more resources to provide for their other children.
  • Primary school is free in Kenya, but families must provide uniforms, fees for room and board, and money for transportation.  For many families, these fees make educating a girl impossible.

What is happening now?

  • Only 48% of girls from rural Maasai communities attend primary school
  • Less than 20% of Maasai girls finish secondary school
  • 1 out of 3 girls are married before they reach 18 years old
  • 6 out of 10 girls undergo female genital mutilation (FGM)

All girls who are married off drop out of school.

Why invest in girls’ education?

Again, the students of Mother Esther say it best: “Education, my choice, my right”

Education allows girls to grow into women who know their rights and who are empowered to make their own choices.  We believe that no girl should be married before she decides for herself, and every girl – no matter where she is from – should have the opportunity to go to school and work toward her dreams.

Investing in girls’ education also benefits the entire community. For every year a girl spends in secondary school, her earning potential increases by 25% offering her the opportunity to escape poverty and provide a better life for her children and family.  A mother’s education is the single most important factor in determining the health and nutrition of her family.  Educated girls raise healthier families and are more likely to reinvest their time and money in the well-being of the whole community.