Escaping the knife and nightmare of early marriage

Chemolingot Primary School head teacher Florence Lomariwo interacts with young girls who are victims of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and early marriage at the school in Tiaty, Baringo County, on February 1, 2018. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Nine-year-old Nadome* looks disturbed.

However, the chants of Standard One pupils at Chemolingot Primary School offers consolation to the young girl as she enjoys the freedom of being in a classroom.

Nadome's escape from her new husband’s home in Akuchatis in Tiaty, Baringo County, led her to the school, where many Pokot girls have found refuge.

“An old man from a neighbouring village had come to book me for marriage. The man was old and wanted to marry me as his fourth wife,” said the minor amid tears.

Her nightmare started when she turned nine and was to undergo Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) rite of passage before she was married off against her will.

But the seventh born girl in a family of 12, had other other plans. She wanted to pursue education.

“I did not want to be married early because it would shatter all my dreams,” she said.

No food

The journey to her freedom lasted four days with no food and water to quench her thirst.

Nadome learnt of the school that also serves as a rescue centre from her village mates who advised her to escape from their hostile home.

According to her, her parents had already made preparations for her circumcision and arranged for her marriage to a 60-year-old man.

“The old man had already paid half the bride price to my parents. He was to take me as his wife immediately I underwent the cut,” said an emotional Nadome.

The primary school has become home for over 150 Pokot girls who have abandoned their homes to avoid circumcision and early marriage.

16-year-old Abusi* abandoned her husband’s home after she was married for two years.

Abusi who became a third wife when she was 12 abandoned her marriage after she fell seriously ill.

“I became very sick because the man was hurting me when he forced me to have sex with him. It was hard to say no to him because he had paid dowry to my parents and that was a taboo in our culture,” she said.

In the Pokot culture, the wife becomes her husband’s property and is at all times required to follow the rules of her husband.

Abusi who has been in the school for two years now is currently in Standard Two.

Despite her age, she was forced to start from the lowest class to catch up with other pupils.

The school head teacher, Florence Lomariwo, told The Standard that they put all the girls in one class where special care is given to them.

“We put then in one class because most of them do not understand Kiswahili. They only understand their mother tongue and teachers have to give them special attention,” said Lomariwo.

Early this year, she was attacked by a group of men who had come to pick their ‘wife’, a 14-year-old girl.