Un­wed refugee mums fear re­turn to So­ma­lia

About 100 Dadaab camp mothers 13- 17 years say they fear for their lives and those of their chil­dren if they are forced back

The Star (Kenya) - - News - RHODA OD­HI­AMBO @Od­hi­amboRhoda

Young sin­gle refugee mothers — chil­dren them­selves — are ter­ri­fied of be­ing forced back to So­ma­lia where they are con­sid­ered out­casts and pros­ti­tutes.

The clo­sure of Dadaab refugee com­plex has been ex­tended by six months but the mothers beg for per­mis­sion to re­main. They are be­tween 13 and 17 years old. Some were raped, some were mar­ried at an early age and later di­vorced. Some mar­ried in So­ma­lia.

No mat­ter: They are not wanted in their home­land. They say they fear for their lives and those of their chil­dren.

The girls face stigma in So­ma­lia where they are seen as pros­ti­tutes.

Six­teen-year-old Nabibo Iman fled to Kenya with her fam­ily in 2011.

When she moved into the camp, she en­rolled in school but her ed­u­ca­tion was cut short af­ter a man forcibly mar­ried her, she said. “I was in stan­dard one when this hap­pened. My mother asked him to al­low me to fin­ish ed­u­ca­tion but he was adamant. He took me by force and later di­vorced me,” Iman said.

She now stays with her aunt who helps take care of her baby. She wants to stay in Kenya and take care of her baby and go to school. What awaits her across the bor­der is dan­ger.

“My fa­ther warned me about go­ing back home with my seven-mon­thold baby. He does not recog­nise the baby be­cause he was at the mar­riage cer­e­mony,” Iman said.

Save the Chil­dren says about 100 girls in three camps had their first chil­dren be­fore they turned 18.

“Some were in a union be­fore they were di­vorced. Oth­ers were de­filed, while oth­ers were mar­ried in So­ma­lia and moved to Dadaab,” Save the Chil­dren area man­ager Caleb Od­hi­ambo said.

He said the com­mu­nity sees them as pros­ti­tutes. “They are called deroga­tory names and seen as out­casts. We started a sup­port group for psy­choso­cial coun­selling,” Od­hi­ambo said. Save the Chil­dren says more than 165,000 vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren risk vi­o­lence, forced re­cruit­ment and fam­ily sep­a­ra­tion.

/JACK OWUOR

A girl at the Ifo2 refugee camp in Dadaab last Thurs­day. Many girls at Dadaab camp have been raped or forced into early mar­riages, end­ing their ed­u­ca­tion

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