PROJECT: WARIDI ZA MUNGU (God’s Flowers)
DIRECTOR: GRACE ANDERE
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Although female circumcision (also known as female genital mutilation, or FGM) is now outlawed in Kenya, some rural tribes still continue this practice. Each year the ritual is performed in December, typically on prepubescent girls. One month later, very old men purchase a new wife from the new “crop” of circumcised girls. The procedure, the forced marriage to old men, the extreme poverty of these communities, and the typically abusive lifestyle in general that these girls face adds up to some of the greatest suffering we’ve come across in our work.
Our partner, Grace Andere, is a teacher at a high school that serves two such tribes – the Samburu and Turkana. About 70% of the girls at the school have already been circumcised and married, like one 13-year-old student of hers. Sadly, this girl has three younger sisters ages 12, 10, and 9, and all three of her sisters are also circumcised and married to old men! This breaks her heart!
Public elementary schools are present in almost every rural community, no matter how remote, but high schools are not so common. Children from remote communities must typically go to a boarding school to continue their education beyond the 8th grade. The school Grace teaches at is one such school, and life at this wonderful school is a nice respite from life in the villages from which the girls come. Nevertheless, they suffer extreme poverty and often need help with basic supplies, like soap, underwear, uniforms, and school supplies. A partnership with Global Pearls helps supply these basic needs to the girls.
Longer term, Grace has bigger dreams. At the end of each school year before the December circumcision ceremonies, many girls run away from home to escape this fate. When a girl runs away, she is permanently disowned by her family and community, so it takes great courage and desperation to run away. Trying to survive alone as a child is extremely difficult and lonely, and these girls often suffer even more than the ones who remain in their communities. Grace longs to give them a home and a new family.
She also wants to help them continue their education beyond high school. Almost all the girls return home after they complete high school – back to the extreme poverty and often abusive situations they came from. A high school education gives them a temporary reprieve, but does not offer lasting change. The girls dream of a better future where they can find jobs to support themselves and help their siblings and parents as well. With a university education or trade school, that would be possible.
Finally, Grace longs to change the community perception of the girl child. Girls are currently viewed as possessions, like cattle that can be bought and sold. Men should perceive them as potential professionals and leaders and thus empower them, too, though education. She believes it is only when we learn to live in love, valuing both girl and boy child, that we will be able to positively transform the current and next generation.