Here is the latest inspiring update we've received from Jane Vulimu, the general secretary of grantee group, Tumaini Self Help Group in Kenya.
Happy New Year 2007!
In our community Christmas and New Year celebrations have just ended and many people are now taking their children to school. The hardest question facing the majority, especially the poor parents, is how to find the money for school fees. This is a time where one can easily measure the love that parents have to their children. It is a time when gender discrimination openly emerges, putting girls at great risk of being treated as objects that can be sold for cash to raise tuition fees for the boys. For those who dearly love their children, it is a time for sleepless nights.
While this is happening, the week greeted Tumaini Self Help Group with very bad news that measured our strength and performance. We proved to the community that we are an unshakable pillar built of hard stones to protect women's and children's rights.
Tension gripped the community on Saturday after an 11-year-old pupil was married off by her parents to a 65-year-old man. Imagine, this man paid a dowry of twenty cows to the father to marry the girl, Grace Nakhanu. Ten men were hired from the community to whisk her away to the old man's room in a fenced manyatta where he was enjoying local beer and anxiously waiting for the girl.
When this news reached Tumaini office, a quick meeting for all members was called by the chairlady and we agreed to work like bees to ensure the young girl's rescue from the hands of the beast. We took two hours to mobilize over 200 women and 500 pupils from the girl's school and staged a formidable demonstration protesting this marriage. The headmistress of the school, Mrs. Lusaka, told us that over six girls from her school between ages nine and twelve had been secretly married off to prominent old man during the Christmas and New Year celebrations. She said that most parents were doing this to acquire fees for their male children. This statement hurt us very much and made us angry.
We marched 40 kilometers singing against this beast-like behavior to the office of District Commissioner. Upon seeing us, the DC was shocked and very cooperative. After explaining to him what had happened, he ordered for the immediate arrest of the man, the girl's parents and the hired men who had whisked the girl to the manyatta. He praised the women for their cooperation, especially the Tumaini Self Help Group and offered two lorries to take us back home. We refused the offer, and demanded to see that the girl had been rescued and to ensure that the law has taken its course before going home. Realizing our seriousness, the DC accompanied the police to the manyatta where the man was hiding the young girl and enjoying several rapes. Within one hour, the DC came back with the girl, she had been seriously raped and looked helpless. She was rushed to hospital for treatment.
The girl, Grace, is now recovering in a local hospital under the care of the Tumaini Self Help Group. We are ready to stay with her and ensure that she enjoys education to any level that she desires.
We danced and sang in praise of the DC, the police and the Global Fund for Women. We told the DC about the wonderful work that the Global Fund is doing around the world and he was very impressed.
Due to this event, the name of Tumaini has spread everywhere within a short period. In every meeting, positive-minded leaders are now encouraging women to join our movement. As we said, "we shall never shy off even at gun point." It is only with strong women's movements that women can realize their rights. By empowering women, the world can become a very peaceful place.