Girls’ Rights are Human Rights – Tackling Child Marriage in East Africa

Phionah Musumba
Posted May 7, 2015 from Kenya
Menstrual Hygiene Empowerment
This was World Tuberculosis Day. We started by discussing TB, but ended up putting more time into menstrual hygiene and the difficulties these girls face in accessing sanitary towels and panties to hold the same during their menses.
Water Is Life
Water Is Life: Children fetching water at a community borehole in Gamoi Village, Vihiga County. (1/1)

Girls’ Rights are Human Rights – Tackling Child Marriage in Kenya Poverty Leads to Child Marriage

Joyce* got married young; way too young.

She was 14 and illiterate. She had only gone as far as class 4 in primary school when she met the 'man of her innocent dreams'.

Before clocking her 14, her husband abused her sexually – not once but several times, in order to force the hand of his would be in-laws, to prevail on him to marry her. He need not have gone that far because Joyce's parents were too poor and had planned to marry her off to anyone who asked, anyway.

Her father even had the guts to congratulate his future son in law for sampling the goods before buying them.

In a flash, Joyce was married off to this brute of a man who used her as a sex slave, warning her against using any contraceptives. He shouldn't have bothered; his naive wife never knew what those were.

Six Babies in Six Years

Every year, for six consecutive years, Joyce gave birth to a brand new baby, and her husband never waited for her to heal from the effects of childbirth before demanding his conjugal rights.

Three days were all he allowed her.

Unfortunately for Joyce, all of her six children were girls – a fact that must have contributed to her husband's excessive misuse of her body to beget a son, since daughters are frowned upon in rural Western Kenya.

Infant Mortality and Still-Births

Joyce gave birth to her seventh daughter, the only child whose birth was a year apart from the others, and who unfortunately died at 2 years old due to malnutrition.

Her husband succeeded in his bid to father a son, the eighth and ninth births. They were both stillbirths for which he blamed Joyce, and to punish her, raped her the same day she lost eighth baby.

Fistula Resulting from Rape

He was so violent that he tore her apart, which resulted in her suffering from fistula. Worse is the fact that instead of getting her medical attention – being the bully he was, he blamed her for her condition.

Two Decades On

Joyce's first born daughter is 21 years old now, but has been repeating her classes every year, with the hope that her parents would get her and her sisters birth certificates with which to register their final primary school exams and venture forth.

No Birth Certificate Means No Education

It is a sad affair that this has happened because Joyce does not have a national identity card, at 36 years of age – which no one reminded her to seek when she turned 18. Without a copy, no birth certificate can be issued, meaning no education for her children, since the government has for the last few years made it mandatory that no pupil can register for the final year of school without one.

Awareness-raising is Crucial

Men need to be taught to respect their women, regardless of their age, and to shun child brides, which is in most cases detrimental to their siring healthy children, who, if carried to term, end up being born with congenital malformations growing up with birth defects and disorders just because they are being raised by an inexperienced child, too – their mother.

Education, Healing and Empowerment for Joyce!

Malkia Foundation took Joyce's kids in and enrolled them in our programs for quality education.

We approached the authorities who wrote us the letter we took to the registrar of persons, and can now report that Joyce has already been issued with an identity card, together with her three daughters who are also adults now, and her children all have birth certificates!

Now they don't need to worry about repeating classes. Same authorities have been very instrumental in ensuring that Joyce no longer suffers domestic violence.

Better yet, Joyce joined the Malkia Foundation project's Women's Health program and is well on her way to getting cured of Fistula.

She is now no longer the timid girl of yesteryear, but empowered enough to fight for her rights.

Village Elders Court

Joyce is still with her husband and almost cured of her fistula, except for her emotional pain.

I reported the matter to the local village elders' court, who had the bully arrested and thrown in the cells for two weeks, where he got the beating of his life from his fellow men and police alike for what he made his wife go through.

Joyce is so compassionate, but her pleas to have him released after only a few days fell on deaf ears as the police wanted to teach him how it felt being beaten up without being able to fight back, until he swore never to abuse her ever again.

It is a small village – and like all bullies, this guy is afraid of facing men his own size in a fight.

It is almost a year now, and Joyce has been slowly blooming after a minor surgery; she is cleaner, can retain her urine and thank God a living example of what not to do to women in any community.

She is, however, still so terrified of her husband, who she says she can't leave because of her seven children – one, a stepson.

Economic Empowerment

I am comforted that she joined one of our Malkia Education programs in adult literacy, and is now training to be a tailor while she manages a small vegetable garden business, which had previously been denied her by her husband.

Inspiring Others

The best news is that Joyce went to the local District hospital, and without being coerced, sought tubal ligation, and is now happy to raise her daughters without fear of pregnancy.

It took me four months to get her approval to do this, and it was my assurance that many more Joyces in her former place would benefit from her story.

We are still working on her self-esteem.

She has taught me to appreciate life and the little pleasures that come with it.

I believe she is a woman to watch.

- - - - - -

*Joyce's name has been changed to protect her identity.

The Path to Participation Initiative from World Pulse and No Ceilings

Comments 19

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Alyssa Rust
May 07, 2015
May 07, 2015

Dear Phionah Musumba,

Thank you so much for sharing such an amazing and inspirational story. Joyce is such a strong women and sounds like she is making great strides forward to becoming empowered and raising her self-esteem. I really enjoyed hearing about how the Malkia Foundation was able to help get her and her children certificates so they could continue on with their education and additional trainings. Sounds like the organization is making a great impact in for the lives of so many women and girls. Thanks again for sharing.

Sincerely, Alyssa Rust 

Phionah Musumba
May 07, 2015
May 07, 2015

Dear Alyssa,

Thank you so so very much for taking the time to read and comment on the story of Joyce. Women like Joyce inspire me every day.

Thanks again.

lauren5848
May 07, 2015
May 07, 2015

Greetings Phionah Musumba,

Thank you for sharing Joyce's empowering transition from victim to survivor. She has been put through so much trauma but she is using her experiences to heal and help others. The scars of emotional trauma are often the longest lasting and the most complex to heal, but Joyce has already begun to work on these. With the help of the Malkia Foundation, Joyce was able to secure an identity and a future for herself and for her children. Thank you so much for sharing this incredible story with the world and for the valuable work of the Malkia Foundation.

Sincerely, Lauren Frei

Phionah Musumba
May 07, 2015
May 07, 2015

Dear Lauren,

Thank you so so much for the time it took you to read and comment on our story.

It is from women like Joyce that we draw the strength to keep forging on for others who join us everyday.

Thanks again.

Carrie Lee
May 09, 2015
May 09, 2015

Thank you for sharing the story of Joyce and how the Malkia Foundation is working to support and empower the women in the community.  What wonderful, wonderful work!

Warmly,

Carrie

Phionah Musumba
May 09, 2015
May 09, 2015

Thank YOU, for reading and commenting on my post. Means a lot. Malkia Foundation would like to do more, as there are countless other women and girls in Joyce's shoes, but we can only do so much. All the best,

Ukhengching Marma
May 09, 2015
May 09, 2015

Hello Dear,

You are an amazing leader. In most of the societies we often don't consdier marital rapes are violence against women. Commiting sexual abuse against a immatured girl even she is a girl is a crime. I am motivated how your organization is empowering the woman , victims to survivors. Much love and respect to them and to you too who are passionate to bring a positive change by standing beside those girls and women.

Regards

Ukhengching Marma

Bangladesh 

Phionah Musumba
May 09, 2015
May 09, 2015

Dear Ukheng, It's sad that oft times, the world watches as women, girls and children are stripped of their dignity. Time for change is long overdue. If only everyone saw /viewed these survivors as their kith and kin..... Thanks for your comment.

Warmest regards,

Tamarack Verrall
May 09, 2015
May 09, 2015

Dear Phionah,

I thought my heart would break into a thousand pieces as I read about what Joyce has been through, except for knowing that somehow, she has you, and the Malkia Foundation in her life. The strength and love that Joyce gives out is now met by similar love and compassion. Joyce's story is at the very base of why we know we must continue to create change, and the actions of the Malkia foundation show how critically important such Organisations are, to saving lives and creating this change. I hope from the bottom of my heart that the No Ceilings Initiative will realise that the treatment that all the Joyces of this world have suffered and continue to suffer can and must be addressed, and that ongoing full funding for these Foundations is an essential first step.

With deep respect for your work,

Tam

Phionah Musumba
May 09, 2015
May 09, 2015

Dear Tam, The power in your voice is a feeling to behold! The world needs all the Joyces safe, educated and sound. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my post.

Thanks again.

Warmly,

Edith Kalanzi
May 11, 2015
May 11, 2015

Phionah, habari

Tremendous effort, worthwhile results! Thank you - to you personally and to Malkia Foundation. Apart from the content, I like your style. I would hold my breath for a moment and then let go almost immediately as I read about the positive action leading to a liberated Joyce. Indeed, Foundations like Malkia should be nominated for funding. 

BTW you say, "...police wanted to teach him how it felt being beaten up..."  - have steps also been taken for him to receive counselling ?

Will be happy to read from you again.

best, Edith

Phionah Musumba
May 11, 2015
May 11, 2015

Jambo Edith! Thanks a lot for your kind words. Thank you some more for making the time to read and comment on my post. Malkia Foundation arranged for both Joyce and her husband to get some counselling, to help heal their marriage. They are well on their way to being a model family. The man is slowly turning into a girl champion. Thanks,

Edith Kalanzi
May 11, 2015
May 11, 2015

that is just GREAT!

again thanks, Edith

Kadidia Doumbia
May 14, 2015
May 14, 2015

Dear Phionah,

Thank you so much for this testimony. It is one of the best I ever read.

It is so wonderful to be able to save one person's life after so much suffering. We need thousands of Malika Foundation in the world to help women.

Phionah Musumba
May 14, 2015
May 14, 2015

Dear Kadidia,

Thank YOU for your kind words, and for taking the time to comment on this post.

In Africa, we have a saying that goes, "a stick that is far away doesn't kill a snake that's ready to bite".

I believe that Malkia Foundation was the nearest stick that Joyce had to fight with.

Thanks again.

Lylinaguas
May 15, 2015
May 15, 2015

Hello Phionah!

What a story! Joyce has gone through so much and her strength can serve as an inspiration to others. Despite all the challenges in life, Joyce saw the value of education and never gave up to get it. Your efforts to help the Joyces of this world is commendable. Their chances of a better future have increased because there are foundations like Malkia to make it possible for them. Thank you for sharing Joyce's story and for making her struggle for education for her and her children a realization. Truly inspiring!

Phionah Musumba
May 16, 2015
May 16, 2015

Dear Lylin,

Thanks a lot for reading and then going the extra mile to comment on my post. Your kind words are so uplifting. I believe in Ubuntu, being because you are, and that together we will always scale greater heights, regardless of whether we are afraid if heights or not, because there's power in numbers. Thanks again for your encouraging words. Means a lot.

All the best,

Olivia
May 21, 2015
May 21, 2015

Dear Phionah,

Thank you so much for sharing the story of Joyce. It really broke my heart when reading that she received continous bad treatment from her husband for so many years and no one really helped her at that time.She is a strong woman despite the fact that her family and her husband did not treat her well yet she is able to handle the repression for decades and survive. We need to tell more story of it so women like Joyce could get assistance earlier before her condition get worse. I sincerely wish Malkia foundation and similar institutions could reach out more women like Joyce because they really need help from us when they can't seek it even from their closest family.  

Best,

Olivia

Phionah Musumba
May 22, 2015
May 22, 2015

Dear Olivia,

Thank you so much for taking the time to read, understand and comment on my post. Malkia Foundation would like to take in all the Joyces of this world, but there's only so much that we can handle. Our organization empowers countless Joyces with education opportunities and skills for enterprise development, all geared towards gainful and or self employment. We look forward to continue being our sisters' keeper for years to come. Thanks again for your time. All the best,