“Girls are the world’s forgotten population”
I finally heard that there is a Charter for young people in Africa – The African Youth Charter. I wonder why it took so long for me to get to know this…I have to tell all my friends about it.
I used to live in Morulem – a small village in the pastoralist Samburu County – Northern Kenya; Until 5 years ago, when a wonderful NGO brought me to Nyahururu to pursue quality education. Learning about the African Youth Charter has brought so many memories rushing back to me…very sad memories. I really wish the government of Kenya could put systems in place for the people of Samburu to abide by this laudable Charter – especially Article 23, which is supposed to cater for the rights and well-being of young girls like me.
You see, one of the provisions of Article 23 is that the government shall “guarantee universal and equal access to and completion of a minimum of nine years of formal education” for girls. However, I know that this is not the case in Morulem, where there are hardly any girls in schools. I remember that one of my friends – Lucy always missed school whenever she was on her periods, because her mother could not afford sanitary towels. The constant raids by cattle rustlers made us young girls very scared to go to school, and due to constant mobility caused by insecurity, some of my friends had to drop out of school altogether. In fact, those of us who still managed to stay in school had to miss school for 2 months another time when our school was entirely flooded by the destructive floods in Morulem.
After two years of schooling in Nyahururu, I went home on holidays. I saw many Morulem girls who had not been as privileged as I was, to get safe & free quality education. It almost brought tears to my eyes to discover that most of them who were between 9 & 13 years had become victims of child marriage and beading.
Beading is a general cultural practice in Samburu where young male warriors (young morans as they are called), after going through their rites of passage, return as men to their clan and put certain beads on the necks of young girls. Shockingly, the act of beading gives these young morans permission to have sex with the beaded girl as often as they please! If the girl becomes pregnant from this callous sexual infringement, she is either forced to have an abortion or the baby is taken from her and killed on delivery. This usually happens because the young moran is a relative of the sexually abused girl child, and an incestuous child is regarded as an “abomination”. A lot of Young girls in Morulem die as a result of complications during abortion or child birth.
Only last year, I also received news that my 11 year old cousin – Rebecca, had died from excessive bleeding after going through the “female cut” which is believed to determine maturity of girls in Samburu. A community leader in Samburu had tried to convince Rebecca’s parents not to book her for the “cut”, but her cajoling had fallen on deaf ears. Now, they must be feeling really guilty, knowing that they lost their only daughter to a cultural practice which they had personally endorsed.
I wonder why such criminal cultural practices have not been grinded to a halt, despite one of the provisions of Article 23 of the African Youth Charter which directs Governments to “Enact and enforce legislations that protect girls and young women from all forms of violence, genital mutilation, incest, rape, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, trafficking, prostitution and pornography”.
My heart bleeds for the thousands of young girls who are being subjected to these harsh conditions/barbaric practices in Samburu and all over Africa. The FULL implementation and widespread knowledge of Article 23 of the African Charter is a giant step towards salvaging the dignity & securing the future of young girls all over Africa. We need to ACT NOW.