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
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.
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