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Girls camp in schools to avoid cut, marriage

18 December 2014, 09:20

Nairobi - Jane Riwoi, a girl at a local primary school in Kapenguria town in West Pokot County, is not spending the December holiday with her parents.

Riwoi is still in school after she got wind that her parents planned to circumcise and marry her off.

"I fear going home because my parents intended to marry me off to an elderly man in the neighboring village," Riwoi told Xinhua at school.

"I better stray in school and miss the celebration than married off before I complete my education," says Riwoi who aspires to become a nurse.

Riwoi is among over 500 girls camping in local school after they declined to proceed to their homes after schools closed down for the December holiday. "These girls refused to go home for the holiday because they feared the cut and early marriage, and we are supporting them to cope here," said Teresa Lukichu, a local nominated leader.

Many pastoralists in the county planned to secretly have their daughters face the cut before marrying them off to acquire wealth.

Lukichu told Xinhua she and other right activists planned to take the girls to a tour to Kitale and Eldoret towns to ensure they are comfortable.

The fight against female genital mutilation by the government and organizations among the Pokot pastoralists is being frustrated by lack of support from the local community who are deeply indebted in culture.

A leading NGO involved in curbing the vice accused the reluctance by the community to allow the implementation of anti Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) law.

Also read: Traditions run deeper than law on FGM

Kepsteno Rotwoo Tipin, a local organization championing for girl child rights, said time has come for the community to quit primitive cultures undermining child development such as FGM and early marriages.

The organization's coordinator Moses Lokeres said offenders of the illegal cut walk scot-free from courts, and courts are unable to prosecute those found committing the outdated cultural practice because of lack of witnesses.

"Last year, together with the help from tribal chiefs we managed to arrest parents who had subjected her daughters to the cut, but the court was unable to jail them because no resident was willing to testify," he said.

Lokeres said for the past four years, the organization has been operational and they have managed to rescue over 1,000 girls from the cut. "Out of the 1000 girls we rescued, six were subjected to the cut during child birth."

David Mutuku, Assistant Commissioner in Pokot Central, said local government is alert, and no girl will be subjected to the cut during the December holiday.

He said chiefs from worst hit areas have been trained by officials on how to effectively implement law, hence reducing the cases which currently stand at 43 percent.

"Chiefs have been trained to be alert and arrest those found engaging in the vice," Mutuku said.

The official asked parents in the region to reduce the pride price for their daughters since it's one of the major contributing factor for the outdated rite.

"Heavy pride price for girls who have been cut has forced parents to subject the girls to the knife secretly so that they earn more cows during wedding ceremonies," he said.

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- Xinhua

Tags kenya fgm

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