When African union launched a two-year campaign to curb child marriage in all the African countries and other developing countries saying that about fourteen million girls below the age of 18 are forced into marriage every year by their parents in poor countries, we thought it was just a minor situation. In Africa where according to the union, at least 30 percent of young girls under 18 are forced into marriage, often against their will. East African Centre for Law and Justice (EACLJ), one of UN’s international affiliates in Africa, assisted in rescuing two young girls facing mutilation and a form of sex slavery as child brides a few months ago. Since then, the union is working relentlessly to end this savage and cruel act.
While the union is working tirelessly and relentlessly calling for reform to see that this gruesome practice shielded under the umbrella of custom and tradition is entirely erased from our world today, a new discovery shows that some young girls at the age of 10 and below still face this ordeal in some parts of Kenya. And this is where the story of this 9-year-old girl comes in. A very disturbing and heartbreaking story of a young girl who was saved through a woman called Josephine Kulea after she got married to a much older man when she was only 9 years old.
Josephine Kulea is the founder of Girls Foundation, a foundation that saves girls from child marriage, FGM and Beading, then takes those girls to school. She has saved more than 200 girls and is sponsoring 125 girls to get an education. Her first rescue was one that involved two girls from her own family.
Her two cousins. One was 10 years old and was to be married out after she undergoes genital mutilation. Usually, in Samburu when a girl is getting married young, that is when they undergo female circumcision. Josephine rescued her, and after she rescued her, she enrolled her in a school.
The woman who is also part of the Samburu tribe received call two days later saying there was a wedding in that village. She thought she had saved the girl but her other little sister who was seven years old replaced her because the cows were already there and any girl had to go. Since then she started saving other girls who are subjected to such ordeal.
Her most recent rescue was the one that involved a girl who was married out at the very young age of 9. Irrespective of the fact that there are situations in the US where parents give permission for their underage children to be married, it’s definitely not as terrible as some of the stories in Africa.
According to CNN report, Younis, a 13 year-old Kenyan girl was married off to a 78 year-old man when she was just nine years old after her parents arranged for her to marry a man old enough to be her grandfather, in accordance with local Samburu tradition which also includes female genital mutilation and offering girls to male relatives for sex. The Victim (Younis) Told CNN
When I was about nine years old, my father married me off to an old man who was 78 years old’
He told me that I will be a wife but I was just innocent, I wanted to come to school. But that man wanted me to be a third wife. I told him, I will not be your wife, and he caned me.’
The young girl ran away from the man’s house after fours years of marriage barefoot and found a home at Samburu Girls Foundation which is operated by Josephine Kulea and the organisation which rescues “girls from child marriage,
The victim revealed she heard that there is a woman who helps children forced into marriage and then came from Baragoi, to Maralal before she was rescued by Josephine.
Even though, Younis along with about 200 other girls across Kenya have been lucky enough to have received a way out of their ordeal through the Samburu Girls Foundation, her case is not a rare one.
According the brave women who is saving these children, early marriage is illegal in Kenya but people within the Samburu community were not pleased that she was saving girls from forced marriages. Everybody in the community wants her to be like them because she grew up from this community. In her words:
Everyone looks at me like, ‘You should be like us, you should not be fighting us. It’s a risk for me but I still give it a go.’
As we already know, girls especially teens between 10 to 14 years old, often have wide cherished aspirations while hoping to find the ideal career of their dreams.