I am proud to say that I've been supporting ActionAid for almost 30 years. In Kenya I have sponsored two children and support ongoing poverty alleviation work in the country. I was horrified to hear about the recent attacks in the coastal town of Mpeketoni - it just highlights how vulnerable poor communities are in the country and, in particular, women and girls. With the ongoing plight of the 300 abducted schoolgirls in Nigeria and the horrific killings of two teenage girls in India and now Pakistan, never before has there been a greater time, to raise funds and awareness to put a stop to such cruel practices and to safeguard the lives and education of girls across the developing world.
That is why I am supporting ActionAid's She CAN appeal to enable thousands of young women and girls to be free from harm into a life where they can learn, live free from violence and be able to work themselves out of poverty.
This appeal will help young girls like 10 year old Margaret Tsuma whose story is one of many. She lives with her family on the Mwakirunge dumpsite just outside Mombasa in Kenya, where she wades through rubbish, broken glass and toxic waste, collecting scrap metal and plastic to sell to earn a living.
The dumpsite is large and dangerous. Girls living there are assaulted, made pregnant by rape, or forced to sell their bodies in exchange for trash. Can you believe, in some parts of the world a girl is more likely to be raped than learn to read. Many suffer cuts and burns from sifting through broken glass and smouldering piles of rubbish. They have no choice: without foraging for scraps to sell, they can't eat.
Margaret says: "It is very dirty and there is a bad smell. I know there are very bad diseases that I can catch there. I am afraid of being cut by broken bottles, nails or syringes. I am also afraid of the fire that is always burning and sometimes explodes. There are some men who go round beating people with bottles when they are drunk."
This situation is simply unacceptable. I have a 15 year old daughter and it deeply saddens and frustrates me that there are girls her age and younger who are living in such appalling conditions and in fear for their lives every day. No-one should be trapped in such a horrific situation because of poverty. With simple interventions like offering education and organising forums to support survivors of violence organisations like ActionAid can give young women a voice, so that they can have the power to unleash their potential, to change the future of their children from bleak to hopeful, and to break the chains of poverty forever.
Margaret does go to school now but during evenings and weekends, instead of studying and playing, she scavenges to find plastic for her mother to sell for food.
That is why I am urging you now to help girls just like Margaret stand up for their rights and fulfil their potential so that they are able to support themselves, their families and communities in the future.
Support ActionAid's She CAN appeal by midnight on Wednesday 25 June and the UK Government will match every pound raised so we can make double the difference to women and girls globally.
For more information, visit actionaid.org.uk/shecan