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Kenyan girls sip sweet freedom after escape of early marriages

Posted by Administrator on January 7, 2012

NARIOBI, Jan. 6 (Xinhua) — At the tender age of 12, Rachel Naitoi woke up to a devastating reality. Her fears of early marriage, which had sent her into shivers, were being confirmed.

Her father had found her a husband.

The 47-year-old man supposedly her husband to be, had come to their home for the final bride price negotiations. As she puts it, her dream of one day becoming an accountant was shattered.

A last born child in her family, Naitoi lost her mother at a tender age. She says life after her mother’s demise has not been easy.

“It was one of the difficult moments in my life, though it was not a surprise, I had learned about the planned marriage from my husband to be after he paid the bride price. My father never informed me, I woke up one day and found the man together with his friends at home when they wanted to take me with them,” says Naitoi.

She could not hide her pain as she narrated her ordeal to Xinhua. “I wanted to complete my education but this seemed not to be, as I was in Class Four my father forced me to undergo circumcision, and in keeping with our traditions, once a girl is circumcised, she has to getmarried,” she narrates.

Sad is the fact that Naitoi’s alleged husband had two wives already. Determined to achieve her education vision despite the challenges, she ran away from her home on the eve of her “wedding day”.

“I pleaded with my brother to assist me; he gave me 200 shillings and directed me to a place in Kajiado where I could help. Were it not for him, I would be someone’s third wife,” she says her eyes beaming with joy.

She boarded a train the same day and arrived in Kajiado where through the area chief’s help, she was admitted at the Seventh Day Adventist educational and rehabilitation center, a haven for girls who have been rescued from Female Genital Mutilationand those forced into early marriages.

Although Naitoi had already undergone the cut, she was lucky enough to escape marriage as a third wife and is currently going on with her education at the center and aspiring to achieve her accounting career.

At the center, those who escape the knife undergo an alternative rite of passage.

Her story is similar to that of Kasaiyan Kaperu, 14, who is now in Class Three. She had also been circumcised and set to be married to a 52-year-old man.

“My mother informed me of my father’s plan but she stood up with me and promised to help me though my father could hear none of her pleas to let me complete my education first,” she says.

“I remember that day I was woken up by screams from my parents’ room when my father beat up my mother for opposing the marriage, he chased her away the following day,” she says.

With no one to turn to, Kasaiyan ran away from her home and sought refuge at the center.

Having never been to a classroom, teachers were forced to give her special attention. Other children of her age have already sat their Kenya Certificate of PrimaryEducation (KCPE), but she is now in Class Three. She is however determined to pursue her education to the end.

Kajiado educational and rehabilitation center is home to more than 200 girls rescued from FGM and early marriages. The center receives one girl each month.

According to an administrator at the center, even though parents have become more enlightened on the dangers of FGM, more awareness should be carried out if more girls are to be saved.

Perhaps with more information being availed to parents on the dangers posed by FGM, the retrogressive culture could be relegated to the dark past, the administrator told Xinhua.

Source: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/indepth/2012-01/06/c_131347021.htm

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