96 POKOT GIRLS RES­CUED FROM CUT

It’s bet­ter to be bap­tised a rebel than to have an im­por­tant part of your body cut off and be forced into early marriage, said anti-FGM chair Li­nah Kil­imo

The Star (Kenya) - - Big Read - BY MONICAH MWANGI @mon­ic­ahmwangi

N in­ety-six girls res­cued from fe­male gen­i­tal mu­ti­la­tion and early mar­riages in West Pokot have been awarded af­ter com­plet­ing dif­fer­ent cour­ses at the St El­iz­a­beth Girls Cen­tre in Or­tum, Pokot.

The grad­u­ates un­der­went train­ing on com­puter fun­da­men­tals, tech­ni­cal skills, dig­i­tal me­dia/web de­sign, on­line work skills, cod­ing skills, life skills and health­care plan­ning and fi­nan­cial lit­er­acy skills.

Speak­ing dur­ing the event, Anti-FGM chair Li­nah Je­bii Kil­imo ap­plauded the girls, most of whom had run away from their homes to avoid be­ing cir­cum­cised and mar­ried off. “This is a great move. It’s bet­ter to be bap­tised a rebel than hav­ing an im­por­tant part of your body cut off and be­ing forced into marriage at a ten­der age,” she said.

She ad­vised the girls to be an­tiFGM am­bas­sadors. “Tell younger girls to refuse be­ing equated to cows. You are all much more im­por­tant than those an­i­mals your par­ents seek as they marry you off,” she said. She asked men to al­low their girls to go to school and women to stop be­ing ig­no­rant by agree­ing to ev­ery­thing their hus­bands say. “Women, please stand firm and pro­tect your daugh­ters,” she re­it­er­ated.

Though most of those grad­u­at­ing had es­caped the abuse, it was dif­fer­ent for 18-year-old He­len Ka­mu­turey, who was cir­cum­cised at 12 years. “I was cir­cum­cised by four mid­wives. It is the most painful ex­pe­ri­ence I have ever gone through,” she said.

He­len was to be mar­ried off but man­aged to es­cape as two old men who had brought equal bride price fought to outdo each. “The one who would have emerged stronger would carry the day, and I would have been handed to him,” she says.

While they fought, He­len, who was locked in the house, man­aged to es­cape through the roof. “I was very lucky. I would have been a mother by now,” she said, adding that par­ents and es­pe­cially fa­thers should start re­spect­ing their daugh­ters.

Labour PS Khadi­jah Kas­sa­choon, who also at­tended the func­tion, told the girls that she should be an ex­am­ple to them that Pokot girls can get ed­u­ca­tion and good jobs. “You were not born for marriage. Look at us and know life is bright,” she said.

The African Cen­tre for Women, In­for­ma­tion and Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Tech­nol­ogy, through sup­port from Mi­crosoft Cor­po­ra­tion, pro­vided tech­ni­cal ICT train­ing skills. They also re­ceived train­ing on cook­ery, hair­dress­ing, farm­ing and life skills. The girls are later at­tached to men­tors who fol­low up on their progress.

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