The war on child marriages and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Samburu County is gaining momentum thanks to an improvised initiative where the boy child has been empowered to help contain the situation by saving their sisters who have been victims for decades.
Sisters of Maria Immaculate Boychild Empowerment Initiative has been championing the empowerment of the boychild in the larger Suguta MarMar area and the efforts have started bearing fruits.
On Saturday, December 9, The Standard visited the Mary Immaculate Rescue Centre in Suguta MarMar, Samburu County which is now a home for 90 girls all of whom are survivors of child marriage and FGM and most successfully managed to run away from their homes where they were to be married off at tender ages of even less than 7 years.
Teresa Nduku, the center's head says the empowerment of the boychild in the larger Samburu County has helped contain the numbers that were escalating in the past years.
As of November 2023, 120 boys from different villages had been empowered to safeguard their sisters and would always either report to authorities or help their sisters escape home from the brutality of FGM and child marriages.
"We could be handling at least two cases every month with some as young as 7 years old. Most of them have successfully been rescued and are currently attending different schools and always meet at the center after the schools have closed, that is for those in boarding schools," Teresa stated.
During the visit, some of the rescued girls narrated their daring escapes from their homes with some risking their lives transversing the forests in the expansive county while looking for help and some in pursuit of education.
*Valentine* not her real name, was rescued at a tender age and she has for years known the center as her home, she is in 2024 going to form four. She managed to run away from her new home after her parents tried to marry her off to a 49-year-old.
"I was married off to an old man and even had a wedding after undergoing FGM, luckily, my brother helped me by reporting to the police and got my parents arrested. They were released on Sh 200,000 bond and luckily I managed to be brought here (Mary Immaculate Rescue Centre) where I have pursued my education and my dreams," she narrated.
Her fellow victim was also married off at the age of 7. She was a goat herder and one evening upon returning home, her father told her she had been married off.
The innocent girl narrated on how she used to sleep on trees for three nights and one day managed to walk to a police station in Maralal.
*Naisula* says her dream is to rescue girls who undergo outdated traditions.
During her narration, she reflected on how back then she could only communicate in the Samburu language but now she is fluent in both English and Kiswahili.
"My mum was helpless, the guy I was to get married to had 3 wives already. I objected since I knew I wanted to pursue my education so I had to run away from home with the help of my brothers. I am now safe and will be going to Grade 4 in 2024," she stated.
The girls say they enjoy the secure environment at the rescue centre which gives them ample space to study and pursue their dreams.
Stay informed. Subscribe to our newsletter
During the event, the Rotary Club of Samawati led by their President Thomas Wariithi donated a Sh1.5m scholarship, several computers, and stationaries to the girls.
Among the Samburu traditions, child marriages have been practiced for ages and girls have been undergoing painful FGM with some bleeding for days and may in some cases be fatal. This is despite being outlawed.
*Name changed to protect privacy.