Kenyan school shields girls from female genital mutilation

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Aljazeera-Kenya – Lasoi’s father told her she was getting married 11 days after she was cut. 

She didn’t know the man she was getting married to nor had she seen him before but a boda-boda (motorcycle taxi) arrived at her home to take her to her groom.

Lasoi, who is 10, is one of the 320 girls seeking refuge from female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage at Naning’oi Girls School and Rescue Centre in Kenya’s Rift Valley.

She escaped from her husband’s home the following morning, running back to her parent’s house.

There she was beaten by her father and taken back to her husband.

One week later Lasoi ran away to her parents for a second time, only to be beaten and turned back again.

Tormented by the husband’s relatives and disowned by her own family, Lasoi’s life became a series of pitiless beatings and household chores. She was denied food when caught playing with other children and was expected to sleep in her husband’s house every night.

Lasoi was found lying unconscious in a grazing field by an old Maasai herder a few weeks after marriage.

She was followed by her husband while she was grazing the cows and she was beaten and left unconscious. She was rescued by members of Nashipai Maasai Community Project and taken to the Naning’oi Rescue Centre.

Lasoi’s story is not out of the ordinary in areas like Kajiado and Narok counties, both predominantly Maasai areas.

Though the practice of FGM has been criminalised in Kenya since 2011, thousands of families still perform it, especially in rural areas.

To avoid detection and subsequent prosecution, the practice thrives behind closed doors. “It is impossible to find an adult woman here who has escaped the cut,” says Selina Nkoile, an activist born into the Maasai tribe, who in 2017 decided to quit her job at a multinational company in Nairobi to embark on a rescue mission. 

“Once a girl is married, her family will be compensated with cows – the most valuable asset in the Maasai Community. Girls don’t belong to their parents. They belong to their husbands.”

“I will never accept child marriage being part of my culture. When I was growing up, women were getting married, but a parent would wait for his girl to grow up and develop all the external organs that show that she is a woman, and after that, she will go through the cut and get married. But today parents cannot wait for their children to grow older. People are hiding behind the culture, but when they look at their daughters, what they see is cows they will receive when they will marry them.”

Selina established the Nashipai Maasai Community Project, through which she was able to rescue more than 250 girls from the surrounding villages and bring them to Naning’oi Girls Secondary School.