Meet Rose (Not her real name) a 19year old mother, born and raised in Kangai village who has just lost her baby Joe (not his real name). She completed her Primary School education successfully only to later fall prey to early marriage due to lack of Secondary School fees. Like most Primary School drop-out, she got married, later got pregnant and gave birth to a bouncing baby boy. It became difficult to provide for herself and her baby especially since her baby’s father turned out to be inconsistent. She toiled at people’s rice farms for a meagre salary and sometimes had to take her baby with her who mostly cried himself to sleep as Rose worked for their evening meal. When baby Joe got to six months, Rose noticed that he had not crawled or made any attempts in terms of movement. Joe’s limbs were weak and he could not support his head nor move his limbs. Rose could no longer take farm jobs since she had to take extra care of her son. Learning of Joe’s disabilities, Rose’s husband kicked her out and took in another wife. Rose could not afford the CT scans, MRI scans, and Physical therapy that she had been told to have for baby Joe at the local dispensary. Rose found shelter at our Rescue Center where funds were being raised to help with the treatment. Baby Joe later succumbed to his illness on June 19th 2019.
This is a common story in many homesteads here at Kirinyaga County and Kenya as a whole. In worse cases, before a girl’s 18th birthday, one in four girls in Kenya is already married. According to UNICEF, Kenya has the 20th highest absolute number of child brides in the world.
Early marriage in this part of the country is driven by Poverty, Tradition and Gender Inequality. Poverty is one of the greatest causes of early marriages in Kirinyaga County. It is a place where many people especially women work in farms (often referred to as vibarua) to support their families. One of the consequences of poverty is no access to education, Truancy and Early marriages. Most families have a large size and most parents are unable or unwilling to take care of their children. Girls choose to get married early to escape the poverty; others are married off and the rest are caught up since they are not busy with school.
Early marriage is a violation of Human Rights and negatively impacts on a girls’ physical growth, mental health, emotional stability and education opportunities. Protect a Girls’ Image Organization is committed to eliminate early marriages in line with our Partners and Donors and the Government of Kenya in line with the targets of the Sustainable Development Goal No. 5 to achieve gender equality and empower all Women and Girls. Through sensitization and advocacy, PGIO has managed to keep many girls in school by changing the mindsets of parents who still believe In early marriages and girls who think it is the only way out of poverty. Through the help of our wonderful Donors, we have raised school fees and other necessities for girls including our recent beneficiary Rose.
If you wish to change the life of Rose and many girls in our Rescue Centre, scroll below and hit the Donate Button. Every Dollar/ Shilling Counts.
By Caroline Wangechi.