There are an estimated 328,000 people living in conditions of slavery in Kenya (GSI 2018). While Kenya has committed to eliminate child, early and forced marriage by 2030 in line with target 5.3 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, 23% of Kenyan girls are still married before their 18th birthday. According to UNICEF, Kenya has the 20th highest absolute number of child brides in the world. Forced child marriage is driven by gender inequality with the belief that girls are inferior to boys. It is exacerbated by poverty, natural disasters and cultural traditions such as female genital mutilation and Samburu whereby a close family relative will approach a girl’s parents with red Samburu beads and place the necklace around the girl’s neck as a form of engagement.
Helena Kaitira was abducted when she tried to run away from her aunt, who was mistreating her. She was hidden in Kenya for four years and forced to marry an older man. With help of her father and Kivulini, she is now back in school.
Before coming to Kivulini I used to stay with my aunt. My aunt was a good person in the beginning but as days went on she changed and she started mistreating me. Then I decided to go back to my father but on the way I met people who knew my aunt. They forced me to go with them to Kenya where they hid me for four years.
I insisted that I wanted to go to my father, but they took me to Nyamongo. After reading Nyamongo I asked them to take me to school but they rejected and vowed to look for a husband for me. They insisted that I should undergo female genital mutilation so I can get married and provide them with dowry to compensate the money they have spent in raising me.
After a week they brought one man and handled me over to him. I stayed with the man for two weeks but I kept insisting that I want to go to my father. Finally the man agreed to help me to look for my father and within a few days my father came to Nyamongo and took me to Musoma.
In Musoma my father came in contact with Kivulini and they agreed to help me to continue my studies. I am in standard four now. I thank Kivulini so much and I am performing well in my examinations.
What they did to me is a very bad things and I ask the society to stop such acts against children. When child are getting married at an early age their organs are still premature and this can also lead to death. If I had chance to meet the president I would tell him to educate the society to refrain from forcing young girls to be married as well as undergoing genital mutilation. Female children are the victims simply because their parents want to acquire wealth by receiving dowry.
Narratives provided by Hivos People Unlimited