I was born in a small village in Northern Kenya. My parents are of pastoralist background and my community is one of the indigenous communities of the world. As the first born of my family my mum gave birth to me at a mere age of fifteen. Just like any other pastoralist girl child she married a man she had never met and knew nothing about. It was an arranged marriage where a young girl is engaged to man decided by her parents as early as four years old. My mum was so much scared and frustrated. As a pastoralist girl with so much restrictions and limited space she did not even understand what boy-girl relationship was all about let alone starting a family. She ran away on her wedding night and it took the villagers a whole day to find her. But she was lucky to marry a kind and caring man.
My dad is disabled and he is the last born in a family of four. In my community, just like any other pastoralist community a last born child and a girl child have no privilege of inheriting any of their father’s livestock. So my dad had nothing of his own but his disability won him sympathy from government officials and missionaries who took him for some tailoring training. He was later given a sewing machine for mending torn clothes. The nature and living standards of our nomadic community was not of any help to my father and his tailoring business, so he had to move to a nearby small town. That is where our upbringing started and he would get a maximum of two dollar everyday by mending torn clothes.
When I was born on a Saturday morning, my father told everybody around that the rock of his life and his strength is born. That statement made them laugh at him. They have never heard of a girl child being someone’s strength and saying that a girl is your strength is like a taboo. One of my aunt’s reply was “may get you many sons to be your rock and may our daughter be blessed with a lovely suitor”. As I grew up we had several visitors, all of them discussing something in lower tones with my dad in the evening. I was their target. My alkum (someone from a specific clan that I am supposed to get married to) has finally arrived. At the age of seven I already had a suitor but amazingly my dad decided to take me to school. He had no money to pay for our school fees, the little amount he received from his tailoring business was not even enough for our daily needs but he just decided to take my brother and I to school. My dad wanted the best for me but he could not afford. Luckily primary school education was made free three years after I joined school. That news made my dad so happy that he sent my messages to all those who asked for my hand in marriage telling them that I will be continuing with my education. Studying was so difficult. Going to school which was two kilometers away on worn-out shoes/bare foot and sometimes empty stomach was not easy.
Despite all the difficulties, my father gave my brothers and I every support that we needed to excel in school. I was always the best performing girl in my school. When my Kenya certificate of primary education results was released I was among the best students in my district. I got support and sponsors to continue with my studies. Most of my relatives were against the idea of me continuing with my studies but father rejected their opinions. He gave me the freedom to study up to the highest level and decide for my own self when I want to marry. While in school I used to support my family with the pocket money I received from my guardian and sponsor. I completed my secondary school education, excelled well and got a chance to be among the students sponsored by government for my degree. While at the university I got a scholarship from a local bank to cater for my university needs and I used that money to pay fees for my brothers. I ensured that all of them excel well in school and join university of their choices for their bachelor’s degree. I am also supporting my father and mum in their daily progress. At the moment I am mentoring girls in my area. I mentor women and train them on small income generating activities. I also visit schools to mentor students. My dream is to start an organization to save girls from early marriages, to ensure every girl has an opportunity to learn and to empower women. This small brief of my story is just an example of what a girl can do for her community once she gets an opportunity to excel.
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