Twelve girls sit under a tree at the Glory missionary in Wiga, Migori county, something they do more often after their tough decision of escaping from home to avoid forced female genital cutting, commonly known as FGM, from their community. After working in the garden, they gather to encourage each other on the action they took.
The Glory missionary school gave the girls shelter after they escaped. The school and LVCT Health through DREAMS joined hands to cater for the girls’ school fees. DREAMS further provides them with dignity packs, which include sanitary towels, and trains them on how to stay HIV-free.
The girls contribute to their livelihoods. They sell part of their harvest from the garden. They also learned how to make soap and mats, which they sell to the community and visitors. The girls are not only committed to their own education but also to educate their communities and help other girls.
Immaculate, 16, is one of the girls who escaped from home two years ago. She once sneaked back only to collect her birth certificate for enrollment at school and DREAMS. She dreams of becoming a surgeon in the future. She wants to gain the knowledge, including the harmful effects of FGM, essential for convincing her community to give up the prohibited practice.
Gloria, 16, escaped from home after her parents told her that she would be circumcised. She knew that this could be the end of her education or even life. Gloria saw her sister get married to a man, double her age, after undergoing FGM.
Gloria enjoys farming. At their small garden, she has grown some vegetables, which she sells to support her daily life. She gained skills in mat-making and leadership skills from DREAMS. “When I grow up I would like to become a leader in the community so that I can help other girls who are at risk of FGM,” Gloria explained.
From a young age, Jennifer lived happily with her grandmother. Jennifer knew her grandmother as the confident bread winner who protected her and paid her primary school fees. However, when she finished her primary education, the grandmother told Jennifer that she would undergo FGM.
She knew that this would be the beginning of their differences. When the grandmother insisted, Jennifer ran away in the night to the rescue center. There she met other girls who have become her family for the last two years.
“When I grow up I want to be a doctor. I will only go back home after my university education because I know if I go now I risk being circumcised by force,” narrates Jennifer.
Gloria, Immaculate, Jennifer, and the other girls feel safe at the rescue centre. Their DREAMS mentor visits them regularly at the centre. Through DREAMS, they learned how to take care of themselves. They also gained skills that help them raise money to pursue their dreams.
By Alfred Itunga