By Constance Ndeleko
This is a journey that I didn’t think I would make. Kajiado county is one of the celebrated counties in Kenya and is enormously rich in culture, traditions and customs that we Kenyans greatly celebrate and boast of.
The Maasai’s have been exceptionally known to carry on with their traditions over the years and are widely known of their unique attire but some of the cultural practices are just unimaginable as they impinge on human rights.
It was a day filled with voluminous of emotions as I listened to the stories, of young girls who escaped and survived early child marriage. It is out of ignorance that parents in this community book their children for marriage and they start receiving dowry even before the girl is old enough to start speaking well. How can we teach this society how to cut away from practices that limit girls/women from their rights?
This is a cry for girls in Kajiado West County, where young girls have been stopped from being kids but wives to old men. “Neisula” a young eight year old Maasai girl, says she was married off to an old man the same age as her father and she was the sixth born of eight children. She tried to escape severally but failed in vain. She was then brutally mutilated before her wedding and her hair shaved off to indicate she was married.
‘I stayed in the marriage for some time and I couldn’t bare it all. I didn’t not understand my role, I didn’t not know most of what was happening around me. I was just a child. I eagerly hungered for education which was a limited luxury to most young girls who had these big dreams of becoming better people in the society.
I would stick around the manyatta most of time and when I went out to play, they would tell me, ‘You shouldn’t play with them anymore, and you’re a married woman who should delegate to husband duties.’ Those words pierced through my chest, puncturing my heart and I terribly carried every time I remembered the words from the middle aged woman.
My heart was just heavy and filled with rage and anger of wanting to hurt my parents for marrying me off and every time the middle aged woman words echoed in my mind, I would be hysterical and want to run away from the confinement.
I couldn’t bare it anymore. It dawned on me if I don’t run away then, I will be tethering my future in the hands of this old man, who will shutter the dreams I had. I woke up earlier than usually and pretended to go fetch fire wood and that was my moment to make the bold step and run and not look back.
I didn’t know where I was heading but all I knew I didn’t want to be part of them neither part of that community. I want to make my own decision and go get educated. It was almost mid-day by the looks of the shadows under the sun, of walking and running in no one’s land but just me and the wild animals. My stomach rumbled for food but the worst was where I could find water to quench my thirst? The semi-arid sun was baking hot with scattered trees. I tried to dig some tubers but that wasn’t enough and I had to keep moving before they could catch me.
It was survival for the fittest. Darkness was approaching and I was running out of ideas. I didn’t have anything to protect and shield me from the whirl wind. I picked one long strong stick as my weapon in case, the animals decided to attack. My pace slowed and I was tired, thirsty and famished.
I had to rest. I didn’t have a choice and my body was giving up on me. It needed rest and liveliness. As it was becoming pitch black I remembered that there was this one school that also served as a rescue center for girls, which was kilometers away from where I was.
I couldn’t sleep anymore, I had to push myself to the extreme and walk throughout the night guessing my steps in the darkness. Finally, after hours of walking, the skies became clear and the sun was starting to rise. My heart leapt in joyfulness when I saw civilization across the ridge.
The tired me, started running towards the school. Education was my escape route away from all my troubles and tribulation. I had found it and I have to make it regardless of the community that was against me. I knew i was rendered the black sheep and an outcast in my village and by my family. I didn’t care anymore. My freedom was here and it was in my hands.
I was received with the most heartwarming embrace that put me in tears, rendering me speechless.
I have never felt loved and cherished in life. This felt like the world to me and I cannot trade for anything. This is my home. This is my sanctuary. I don’t care of what will happen when I finish my primary education but one thing I know is, I will never go back home until I have achieved my goals and that is, if they accept me back.
What worries me is, I left behind two sisters and I don’t know how I can help them out of these crazy traditions of Cutting girls and marrying them off at an early age. Not a minute passes without me thinking of my sisters. It saddens me. It makes me tear up every moment. It is in hopes that they will make it here safe and sound and I keep praying that, someone will save them and girls of my age group from theses barbaric acts.
We don’t have a lot here at the rescue center but I sleep a happy and sound girl. I will be always grateful to them and God for always giving me a chance,’ says “Neisula”.
Where is the National government? Where is the county government of Kajiado? Where is the women representative in this county? The thought of not having a police station in the ward still puzzles me! How can they get justice? Who should be held accountable for the rights of these young girls who are struggling and fighting tirelessly for their rights and freedom? Is it the society, Parents or Government?
Justice should prevail for not only “Neisula” but hundreds of girls out there who want education and their rights to be protected.
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