MY JOURNEY

rosemary_ntoipo
Posted September 30, 2015 from Tanzania

I was born to a pastoralist Maasai family whose trends were very nomadic. My father grew up along the border line which was quite imaginary to many people then. Sometimes they grazed their animals away from on either side (in Tanzania or Kenya)

With this kind of shifting trends they would in some seasons be in Kenya or in Tanzania. During one these seasonal trends some missionaries visited homes looking for children to take to school. This is how my father found himse among those who got a chance to go to school. He later married my mother who also had a chance of going to school. This was very rear then but it happened.

Am one of the few Maasai girls then, who were lucky to have had educated parents (both father and mother) and had a chance of going to school. Although this was good to me, on the other hand my uncles didn’t have the opportunity to go to school and conserved the stringent culture. This made it hard for my girl cousins. They underwent the suffering like all other girls in my community. They became victims of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), Early forced marriages and early pregnancies.

Apart from the beauty of our traditions/culture on the other hand growing up as a Maasai girl is many times a shift of difficult trends due to unfavorable cultural norms. In Maasai community most men believe that they can only marry women who have undergone FGM. Women have no ruling over the same. FGM is usually the beginning of a girl’s life into adulthood. This happens at an early age of eight years old.

The rationale for FGM- The reasons for why some communities circumcise their women are deeply rooted in their traditional culture, driven by a psychosexual and social reasons, specific to each context and passed down to generations. FGM prevalence is higher in rural than urban areas.

My cousin (girl) Silato went through FGM and after healing she was married off. During her first pregnancy with no health facilities and a delayed birth with the help an untrained traditional birth attendant. She developed an obstetric fistula. People rejected her she withdrew from the public. She kept to herself. Children would hold their noses tight when they met her an indication that she had a foul smell. It became very hard for her. An obstetric fistula is caused by obstructed labor, leaving a woman incontinent of urine or feces or both. A woman with fistula is too often rejected by her husband and pushed out of her village due to her foul smell.

There are many girls or women who have suffered the consequences of such. Some die due to over bleeding and some of the cases go unreported. They are quietly buried and that’s how their lives end.

As a leader I would like make a positive change by supporting underage girls not to be married off. Their mental development is hard to adopt the responsibilities that come with marriage. It should never be burdened on a child. According to the convention on child rights, a child is one under eighteen years of age. I would like to see the law to this effect implemented. This is one of my main drives to supporting girls and women. I volunteer in training girls in schools and women to know their rights and embrace the same.

With Digital media, collaborating and networking with other women on world pulse, I will support my community and my country to help find solutions to many of these issues. These issues can be reported and many girls and women will get the relevant help.

Comments 15

Log in or register to post comments
Tosin Victoria APIRIOLA
Sep 30, 2015
Sep 30, 2015

Dear Rosemary,

Your journey is quite inspiring, delving into the true hearts of the average African, forget the allures of now spreading urban settlements, a lot of young people still need to be reached at rural level.

I greow up in an urban city but decided to be a grassroots champion in rural communities in Kwara State, Nigeria. This is my calling and I believe we will get there some day!

Regards,

Tosin

rosemary_ntoipo
Sep 30, 2015
Sep 30, 2015

Dear Tosin,

Thanks alot.  Am happy that you are inspired. Absolutely, many young people need to be reached. Thank you so much for deciding to be a grassroot champion. I like that. Thats the way to make the difference making their voices heard and helping them out. Again, thats our calling and yes, we will surely get there some day.

Warm regards,

Rosemary.

Sarah Murali
Sep 30, 2015
Sep 30, 2015

Dear Rosemary,

Thank you so much for sharing your journey, and the journey of your family. It is inspirational! You raise so many important issues in this article. The importance of education cannot be over-stated. It is the key to promoting gender equality, to improving the health of communities and our planet, and to giving people the power to choose the course of their lives. It is important to remember the many beautiful elements of all cultures, and to seek to maintain them through education. At the same time, education also empowers people -- especially girls and women -- to question and change the cultural practices that are harmful to them and to their communities.

I was a teenager when I saw a televised interview of Dr. Catherine Hamlin discussing the problem of fistulas and the risks of early childbearing. It was the first time I had heard of this problem, and the interview has stayed with me ever since! I couldn't believe some of the stories of fistula survivors who walked for days to reach her clinic in Ethiopia to get the surgery needed to correct the problem. It truly saved their lives and restored their dignity. I'm so glad you are also calling attention to this devastating issue and bringing it to light! Your work to prevent child marriage is so important. What is the legal age for marriage in Tanzania and in Kenya?

Thank you again Rosemary.

All the best,

Sarah

rosemary_ntoipo
Oct 01, 2015
Oct 01, 2015

Dear Sarah,

Thanks alot. Am grateful that I inpired you and also to know that I raised many important issues. Yes, education is very important. It helps us view at various issues differently and helps us make relevant/ positive changes. Like you mentioned it promotes many important aspects. It is a key to promoting equity and improving peoples lives.Absolutely, education is a sure way of empowering people especially girls and women in our communities. 

Again, thanks alot for the mention of Dr.Catherine Hamlin and her tremendors work in helping women suffering from obstetric fistula in Ethiopia. You can imagine how much she helped. I can't help thinking how many women suffered or died before she went to Ethiopia. Her help was overwhelming. She changed the lives of the women positively. This is the kind of change that we would like to see among all our people. This was great information.

You asked for the legal age of marriage in Tanzania or Kenya. In Tanzania we have two contravening laws that are curtailed. We have the statutory laws and the local customary laws which are both recognized and legal as per the law. These laws do not support the girl child. Reason is as follows; The Tanzania law of marrige Act(1971) allows for boys to marry at 18yrs and girls to marry at 15yrs. Girls can marry at the age of 14yrs if the court approves. These girls according to the convention of childrens rights is a an underage. 

Tanzania customary laws run parallel to statutory laws. The local customary law (Declaration) order GN279 of 1963 allows ethnic groups to make decisions based on tradition. It can be 8yrs or any other. That is the position of the law of marriage in Tanzania.

In Kenya the marriage laws anyone (boy or girl) can marry at age18yrs. Anyone under 18yrs is not allowed for they are considered underage. Their law does not support the marriage of the underage. Kenya is monitoring this alot and action is taken to those who go aganst the same. This is the legal position for marriage in the two countries. Iappreciate your asking that.

Warm regards,

Rosemary.

Sarah Murali
Oct 01, 2015
Oct 01, 2015

Hello Rosemary,

Thank you for your reply, and for sharing the legal situation around child marriage in Kenya and Tanzania. It sounds like there are good efforts being made in Kenya to get appropriate laws in place and enforced. The laws in Tanzania sound like they are more complex and offer less protection.

What do you feel would need to happen to get more legal protections to prevent child marriage in Tanzania? I realize this is a big question, and maybe not one that has a clear answer. I am just curious what actions could be taken, in the legal realm or other arenas, to address this situation and protect these girls. Any thoughts you have would be appreciated, but, as I said, these are big questions and I am sure they are easier asked than answered!

As Maya said, it's so important that you are able to act as a voice for those who cannot speak out for themselves.

All the best,

Sarah

Maya Muñoz-Tobón
Sep 30, 2015
Sep 30, 2015

Dear Rosemary,

Thank you for sharing such a difficult story. I am glad that you are the voice of so many young women in your community, you are bringing a voice to those who cannot speak for themselves due to lack to education and resources. I appreciate how you can see that the resources that you were luckuly able to have as you were growing up, are giving you the knowledge and sense of responsibility to support others. I believe it is important for those who come from the same communities and have an understanding of rooted traditions to create dialogue and speak compassionately in their communities to change harmful traditions. I look forward to keep hearing about the work you are doing.

In partnership,

Maya

rosemary_ntoipo
Oct 01, 2015
Oct 01, 2015

Dear Maya,

Thanks alot too. Am grateful for the mention of my being a voice for young people who cannot speak out for the themselves due to luck of education and resources.

Again, thanks for appreciating that I can make a difference through my acquisition of knowledge and  a sence of responsibility. I totally agree how important it is for people in similar communities understand their traditions to create dialogue and speake to change HTPs. I like that.

I look forward to keeping you informed about my work.

Yes, In Partnership,

Warm regards,

Rosemary.  

GD
Sep 30, 2015
Sep 30, 2015

Dear Rosemary,

Thanks for showing us that when we have assets, we have to use them to help other people, to change other people lives. In your case and from your journey, I can see that education (your parents' education, your own one) is an asset and you want to use it to positively impact other people lives.

Thanks again

rosemary_ntoipo
Oct 01, 2015
Oct 01, 2015

Dear GD,

Thanks alot too. Am happy for the mention of education for my parent and me, has become an asset to help change other peoples lives positively. Am very grateful and hope that many girls and women will benefit from this journey.

Again, thanks

Warm regards,

Rosemary.

Emily V
Oct 05, 2015
Oct 05, 2015

Dear Rosemary, thank you so much for sharing this story that really gives an insight into the hardships faced by girls in a rural Maasai culture.  In other parts of the world we often take for granted certain rights for women and children.  The honest truth about how girls are expected to conform to long standing traditions, despite the risks to health and life, is a true call to action for women everywhere.  I echo Maya's comment that change can be initiated by those who come from the same communities and have an understanding of rooted traditions.   I hope that through sharing of information and conversations like this, women globally will find a way to lend support to women like you who have the contact and clout to make changes for the better in your community.  Thanks for sharing your story.  -Emily

rosemary_ntoipo
Oct 18, 2015
Oct 18, 2015

Dear Emily,

Thanks alot too. Am very grateful. Yes, sometimes people can take certain rights for granted. LIke you mentioned, it is a true call to action for women everywhere. Yes, this can easily be done by those who come from the same community. I appreciate your comments and suggestions a lot.

I hope so too that through sharing of information and conversations I will get support to make better changes in my community.

Again, thanks a lot,

Warm regards,

Rosemary

zizou
Oct 09, 2015
Oct 09, 2015

Dear rosemary

You are so lucky to be an educated woman in your country and you have used this gift  very well that to serve your community by defending those girls and fighting for women rights. It's women like you that can put an end to this kind of practices ; the FGM that causes serious health problems to the little girls an d the early marriage that deprive them from living a normal childhood . I salute you for your efforts and i encourage you to continue your battle .

sincerly,

rosemary_ntoipo
Oct 10, 2015
Oct 10, 2015

Dear zizou,

Thaks a lot. Am very grateful.  I also wish to see a community or society that protects and respect girl and women.  hope to connect with you again. Again, thanks a lot.

warm regads,

Rosemary.

Tami ssa
Oct 15, 2015
Oct 15, 2015

Dear Rosemary,

" their mental development is hard to adopt the responsibilities that come with marriage. It should never be burdened on a child."

I think the same, this girls must have other possibilities in life according their mental situation. your work is very brave and inspiring! Thank you for sharing with us! Do you think tha goverment can intervein in this situation?

Thanks for your attention

rosemary_ntoipo
Oct 18, 2015
Oct 18, 2015

Dear Tamila,

Thanks a lot. Am very grateful for your comments and that I was able to share this post with you. You asked, if I think the government can intervene in this situation. Yes, but it might take many years to have marriage age laws reviewed and amended. We will continue asking and have the contravening laws amended so as to support the girls or women. Again, thanks a lot

Warm regards,

Rosemary