Risk of Early Marriages

The Kenyan government today announced the extension of the travel ban for another 21 days. This means that schools will not resume in May as most parents expected, but again, better safe than sorry. As parents agonize over the fate of their children, talking to the Valvisions Foundation girls in Pokot brought things to another perspective. The real danger now for the young girls in Pokot is early marriages. The economy has been greatly harmed, and in an environment where drought and floods are suffered, Pokot is once again, being hit hard. God, in His grace has, however, spared the District from the scourge of the coronavirus. Pokot has endured very few infections as compared to other towns in Kenya. Talking to a teacher today, her biggest worry and concern is that most of the students at the Primary School are encouraged by their parents to attend school as they are provided a simple meal for lunch. The schools that do not provide the meals struggle against an inadequate number of students. Staying at home for a long period of time will cause the girls to suffer. Their parents who are not educated, and do not value education as a result, will happily give the girls away for marriage at a young age, in order to fetch some income. The parents do not care about the well-being of the minors, having one less mouth to feed and some extra cash in the pocket is good enough for them. When one compares children from the city with those from marginalized areas like Pokot, the contrast is considerable, yet despite the tremendous differences, the Pokot students are expected to sit the same exams and pass. The children in the city have access to online teachings and materials while those in Pokot, fortunate enough to finish their primary education, will have to depend on what they learned in the classroom. Teachers have been looking at ways to engage these children in order to keep them busy and out of mischief. Though social distancing does not work well in Pokot, they have been meeting the children in their homes and giving them homework they can do to help catch up on their studies. Having been born and brought up in Pokot and having been fortunate enough to have received an education, has opened the minds of the teachers. Rather than sit at home...

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FGM Monthly Article – April 2020

West Africa: Ending FGM in Mali: “The fight is hard but noble” “You were born yesterday, and you are the one who wants to talk to us about female genital mutilation? This is what parents say when we try to talk to them about it,” says 25-year-old Coulibaly who is youth activist working with Plan International to end the practice of FGM in his community in Mali. In a country where more than 85 per cent of women and girls believe FGM should continue, ending FGM is not an easy task. In Malian society, a woman who is not cut is often considered to be unclean. She may find it difficult to marry and be socially excluded. Many also believe it is a requirement of Islam. The subject of FGM is considered taboo, so those who are most affected do not discuss it or the physical or psychological consequences. Transforming the situation is challenging as the practice is deeply rooted in cultural and social norms. “Before, when we talked about abandoning female genital mutilation, we were banned from the village,” explains Kouradjei, 60, who is a former FGM exciser. “I gave up the knife a long time ago. During my career, I have seen some awful things. I now know the consequences of the practice of female genital mutilation and I am convinced that it has no advantages for women.” Mali remains one of the last remaining African countries without national legislation banning FGM. It is estimated that 9 out of 10 girls and women in Mali have undergone FGM, with the highest rates of FGM occurring in the south. Plan International has implemented projects in 180 villages in five regions of Mali with the aim of eradicating FGM. The communities we work with are at the heart of our interventions, so we establish village committees to create action plans to tackle the issue. By setting up key partnerships with government agencies, local authorities, children’s organizations and youth groups we have seen a fall in the number of cases of FGM in the communities we work with, however we still have a long way to go. Our challenges remain high in a society where girls do not have a say when it comes to female genital mutilation, a society where young people are not consulted when it comes to our rights. The fight is hard but noble,” Coulibaly says....

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Working from Home

This past week we began to work on the career charts for the different schools where we offer the Choice Club program. Shiners school was the first to receive the charts. Since schools are still closed, we are taking this time to work because we will not be interrupting the students, and neither will they interrupt us. At Shiners school, the Director of the school was very grateful to see that we are thinking of the welfare of the children even as they await the opening of the school. All schools were to have resumed today, but that has not happened due to the corona crisis. International schools resumed online classes yesterday, though the students are still very worried about the exams they were due to sit in May. We will continue to work on the charts for the rest of the schools. Njabini school, A.I.C Ngong and Kimuka will have their charts up by the first week of May. We continue to engage the students on social media, so we can help them with any challenges they may encounter. They know they can reach out to us any time of the day. Staying at home is causing a lot of emotional stress for some of the students especially those that come from broken homes. They are having a hard time coping with the challenges at home; keeping the curfew hours is another challenge. One parent called me and asked me to talk to her daughter because she does not respect the curfew put in place. She goes off to visit her friends despite the warnings to stay at home thus putting all of them in danger of contracting the virus. When her mother tries to reprimand her, she storms out and does not come back home until the next day. Relationships are significantly strained between parents and their children. They will have to find a coping mechanism, however, as the lockdown will be with us for a while. Infections are still going up and there is need to stay safe. We are additionally keeping an eye on our own children who also need a lot of love and support at this time. We have been in touch with the club patrons and other teachers to check on their welfare. Many are having a hard time coping because they are worried about their studies and/or their jobs. At this...

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Fight FGM

The eradication of Female Genital Mutilation is very close to our hearts as an organization. The risks associated with FGM are horrific for young women and girls. There is nothing good that comes from the practice; all it contributes is to endanger the lives of those that undergo the cut. The Pokot girls in the Helen Valverde Scholarship program were very fortunate to have been saved from the cut. One of the girls in the program recently got engaged to a non-Pokot man. The rest of the girls called me very excited to report that they attended the engagement party. This is something new in Pokot, who ever heard of an engagement party there?! And to a non-Pokot man?!!? We include these photos from the engagement party. Cecilia’s Aunt pours milk on her to seal the union. All the aunties from her father’s side will pour milk on her.  Milk is greatly valued in the Pokot community because they depend a lot on livestock for their livelihood especially cows and camels. Cecilia’s dad seals the union by pouring milk on the head of her husband to be. Another of Cecilia’s Aunts pours milk on her to bless the union. Cecilia carries a guard of milk on her back. She will walk to her husband’s new home carrying it. Her in-laws will meet her on the way, the mother in law will get the guard off her back and take the milk home. This milk is to be consumed by her in- laws. It symbolizes a new wife in the home. The stick Cecilia is holding is given to her by her mother for herding the cows that her husband will give her. It cannot be used by anyone else except her and she cannot herd without it. Cecilia and a friend   The message is loud and clear; it is possible to get a suitor without being cut! There was a point where the girls were very worried, wondering who was going to marry them since the community knew they’d opted for education and missed out on the ‘all important’ ceremony facilitating their graduation from childhood to adulthood. Because these girls received an education, they learned they can marry men from other communities who would not require them to be cut beforehand. FGM is illegal in Kenya; it has been illegal since the practice and procurement of it were banned in...

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My Thoughts ~ Grace Wandia

There is so much evil in the world, maybe that is one of the reasons God has put the world on ‘pause.’ We need to re-think our ways. As I sit here, I am reminded of the many times I have watched injustice being dished out to people who did not deserve it, helpless situations that bring one to tears, yet there is only so much one can do. When a man beats his wife countless times, inflicting pain on her time and again, only to eventually kill her, cutting her life short so brutally-what can I personally do? A schoolgirl,16 years of age, is living with her married sister because their parents died. The sister’s husband offers to educate the girl, if only, however, that was his sole intent. He takes the young girl aside purporting to study with her, but rather, sexually molests her. The girl is terrified of telling her sister because she does not want to break up her marriage. The sister eventually finds out what has been going on and chases the poor girl from home. She protects her husband.  What can I do to right this wrong? When a couple decides to open a children’s home, they get all the necessary paperwork, and because they have money and influence, no one bothers to check their background. They run the home military style, who cares that the children are used to raise funds for their personal gain? They ‘prosper’ and become very arrogant, until a whistle blower calls them out and they are promptly shut down, but the damage is already done. What can I do to mitigate the harm? When the government give funds for the poor and elderly in the community to those that have been assigned as their guardians who pocket the cash, reporting to their charges that the government has delayed issuing the money- what can I do against the injustice? When a mother takes her 9-year-old daughter to be cut, because she ‘will make a better wife’ when she is cut, she does not think about what she is doing to her daughter. The trauma and pain and betrayal lives with the girl for the rest of her life. She develops severe trust issues. The person who was supposed to protect her sold her off for a herd of cows, leaving her with the loud but silent message that...

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