KENYA: Caro's Strong Spirit Gives Hope
Steamboat Springs — Editor’s note: Clark resident Mary Walker works at the Tasaru Girls Rescue Centre in Narok, Kenya. The center was built in 2002 with funding from the United Nations, and it provides a safehouse for Maasai girls who have run away from their families to escape or been rescued from female genital mutilation and forced childhood marriage.
Having returned once again from my work at the Tasaru Girls Rescue Centre in Narok, Kenya, I want to take this opportunity to thank the Steamboat Pilot & Today for its interest in my firsthand perspective on the current political and social situation in Kenya.
In my last update, I briefly described the internally displaced persons camps that exist throughout Kenya following the post-election violence. The IDP camp in Eldoret, Kenya, houses 14,000 people. Imagine the entire population of Routt County living in tents (if you were lucky enough to be given one by the Red Cross) in an area the size of the Howelsen Hill base area. There is no sanitation or clean water, and food deliveries from the Red Cross are irregular. You do not know when your family will get its next ration of food.
It is the long rainy season, making the camp a breeding ground for malaria, cholera and typhoid. The government has yet to implement a concrete plan that would provide security to allow you and your family to either return to your home (if it was not destroyed) or relocate to another area of the country. This is how hundreds of thousands of Kenyans have been living for more than four months.
In my last piece, I spoke of returning one of the girls from Tasaru to her boarding school. Her name is Carolyne; her Maasai name is Lato. I’d like to put a face to her story.
“I was 14 when I came to the safe house. I had to leave because my father refused me to go to school and if I hadn’t left, my father would marry me off to an older man. They already had done female genital mutilation to me because I did not know any better. I was 9 years old when they did it.
“First, I thought of killing myself. Then, I realized I had to leave. My father sent me to the market. He gave me 1,500 shillings. I decided I would just leave that day and not come forever to that home again. I left by myself, but on my way I met a Good Samaritan. I was not planning to come to the safe house. I was just running away. I thought I was going to become a street girl or a house girl. But then, this person found me on the road. She told me about the safe house.
“When I came to Tasaru, I found out what FGM does, and I was very angry about what happened to me when I was 9. Sometimes it haunts me, but they have already done it. I have to just accept it. Now, I hope they will not do it to my sisters.
“I cannot go home. My father is not willing. We tried for the reconciliation but he refused. He rejected me. I want to go to university. I want to be an accountant. Then I want to go back to my village and work.”
Caro and her strong spirit is representative of all of the girls living at Tasaru. As their “older sister” at Tasaru, Caro supports, comforts and encourages all of the other girls at the center. I wake up every morning and wish for Caro the strength to continue on the path she chose for herself when she was 14 years old. I wish this for all of the girls.
SOURCE: The Steamboat Pilot & Today
AUTHOR: Mary Walker
URL: Click here