- While the war was previously fought by activists, including government authorities, the would-be victims have now joined in.
- Young girls in the communities where these practices are rampant have had to make hard choices, including abandoning their homes for safe shelters where their childhood is protected.
Stories abound of female circumcision, early marriages and the fight against these practices in various parts of Kenya.
For decades, there has been spirited activism around the need to abandon the two traditional practices.
While the war was previously fought by activists, including government authorities, the would-be victims have now joined in. Young girls in the communities where these practices are rampant have had to make hard choices, including abandoning their homes for safe shelters where their childhood is protected.
Samburu Girls Foundation (SGF), Maralal, is one such a place where young girls hide away from harmful cultural practices of their communities. Here, girls as young as eight years old have found a home, where their lives are knitted together with threads of pain, betrayal, tenacity, strength and forgiveness.
DN2 had a heart-to-heart chat with five girls from Samburu County who have had to pay dearly in fighting these practices, which militate against their quest for education, growth and development.
AGE: 19 YEARS
Wanjira sat her KCPE examinations in 2014. She was 15 years. She knew her parents would not be taking her to secondary school. First, there was no money to pay for her education, and secondly, her parents had separated. She also knew that is she did not proceed to secondary school, she would be married off. She had seen it happen to dozens of her friends and classmates.
“Actually, the plans to marry me off were already in place, so I confided to my then school head teacher who connected me to someone who was rescuing girls like me. I didn't even think about my actions, I just left home,” she says.
The thought of getting married that young did not go well with Wanjira. She wanted more for herself than the village could offer. Then, whenever she had access to TV, the anchors were her inspiration. She had her career figured out.
“I have transformed in ways even my parents cannot imagine. My relationship with them is good although occasionally we have misunderstandings that stem from my transformation.
There are things that they sometimes want me to do, but since I don’t agree with them, I adamantly stand my ground and say, ‘No’.
Having completed her secondary school education last year, Wanjira has changed her career path and now aspires to become a teacher so that she can educate and enlighten other children.
“Were it not for my head teacher in primary school, who looked out for me, I would probably be someone’s wife. I want to do what that head teacher did for me for other children who may find themselves in a position like the one I was in,” she says.
AGE: 19 YEARS
Joy was only 11 years old in 2011, when elders in her community decided she was ripe enough for marriage. A suitor had been found, a 65-year-old man.
“I was in class six and I only got to know about the plans on the material day. Thankfully, a friend of mine told me about a rescue centre in Maralal (northern Kenya).
“As I was trying to figure out how to escape from the impending marriage, the centre came and rescued me. Someone had tipped them off about my case,” she says.
Unfortunately, before she was rescued, she had already gone through the cut to prepare her for her married life. At the centre, life was difficult and lonely. On several nights, she wondered why her relatives had betrayed her, yet they knew she looked forward to going to school.
“I also felt that it was only my mother who loved me because I knew that she had been against my arranged marriage. However, there were also nights when I felt guilty for running away from home. My sister had been married off so young, so my running away could have been seen as disrespect.”
“I returned home for the first time in 2014. Since then, I have been visiting regularly. I currently have a good relationship with my parents and they take pride in me, especially seeing that I want to pursue a nursing career,” she says.
Looking back, she feels that her parents’ decision to marry her off was prompted by poverty.
“Since they couldn't afford to pay for my education, they must have thought it was best for me to get married just like other girls in the neighbourhood,” she says.
AGE: 19 YEARS