I defied my dad, it paid off

Josephine Rotiken,22,a fourth year Law student at Kabarak University during the interview in Narok.She escaped forced marriage to his father's friend and now on the verge of becoming the first-ever female lawyer in her village. PHOTOS: ROBERT KIPLAGAT

That I am a fourth year law student is nothing short of a miracle. As a 22-year-old woman born into the pastoral community at Olkurto village in Narok North, it is expected that I should have been married many years ago.

In my community, the boy child is treasured more than the girl so while I stayed home, my father took my younger brother to school from a very early age.

Every morning, he would wake up early to take him to school — which involved passing through Mau Forest. My father eventually got tired of this routine and told me to be taking my brother to school. This is how I got to set foot into a classroom.

All was well until after I sat for my KCPE when I learned that plans had been made to marry me off to my father’s 33-year-old friend. I was only 12.

When the KCPE results came out, I had done well in the exams and was the best girl in my zone. My father was, however, not amused and would hear nothing of my desire to pursue my secondary education.

My mother was, however, supporting me all the way — albeit secretly — and when it became clear that my father was determined to have me married, she intervened. She contacted her cousin who had studied with one Patrick Ngigi, Director of House of Hope Rescue Center, and together they organised for me to run away from home.

I was later to learn that my mother received a thorough beating from my father for helping me escape and that he’d vowed that either him or I would die for ‘refusing to marry his suitor’. I knew that I was now well and truly on my own.

Ngigi helped me secure a sponsor to pay my secondary school fees and I joined Jomo Kenyatta High School in Nakuru.

While at the school, I decided to open up to the administration about my predicament and begged to be allowed to stay at school while others went home for the holidays for fear of meeting my father.

It was a peaceful four years but my temporarily relief was shattered when after writing my final KCSE paper, I saw my father and would be suitor at the school looking for me. I immediately informed the deputy principal who was able to convince the two men that I was not at the school.

After high school I sought for assistance from the Narok Children’s Office and the officers summoned my father, mother and I to their offices.

I got to argue my case and stood my ground telling my father it was wrong of him to force me into marrying a man that I did not love and that I had a future to face in education.

I won the case and it is here that my desire to become a lawyer took flight.

By God’s grace, I did well in my KCSE and providence once again played her part in enabling me secure a spot at Kabarak University where I am set to graduate next year with a bachelor of laws degree.

What I find amazing is that my father, who was vehemently opposed to my education, now brags loudly about his lawyer daughter to his peers and at social joints.

I intend to use my education to help girls, who find themselves in a similar situation such as mine, break free from retrogressive practises, and stand up for their rights.

I know for my community to see the importance of educating the girl-child, they must see change so I intend to put up a mansion back home as a way of showing them that educating a girl is not a waste of time.