I always admired older girls when I was young. They were pretty in their dresses which fitted them very well and their lovely faces exhumed joy.
They seemed to have many friends and the older women liked talking to them. I admired being a girl and hoped to grow big so I could enjoy the same treatment like them.
In my innocence, didn’t know that behind the beautiful faces were vulnerable girls with no one to fight for them and the challenges they faced were enormous beyond description.
In my community, girls are viewed as a source of income or wealth and every family can’t wait to trade them with some herd of cows, goats or sheep against their wishes regardless of the number every December each year.
For them it’s about wealth created out of the transaction.
Without feeling their pain, the helpless girls lose their self-worth due to retrogressive cultures. Their bright future disappears into thin air as a new chapter full of uncertainties and strife sets in.
I used to wonder where all the older girls disappeared to after participating in colorful ceremonies that were being held every December holidays but I got no answer.
I was still young and all I could hear women telling me was” when you grow big like them, you will dance like them, wear nicely done outfit made from squirrels hide and people will come ad celebrate with you like we are doing for them”. I was so excited.
It was a colorful event that brought villagers from miles away together. I did not know the aftermath of the whole event. Everybody waited eagerly for this event and the major beneficiaries were would be suitors who had made early bookings and the girl’s father.
The girls were kept in the dark oblivious of who would be next for the ritual otherwise they would run away.
One day I asked my mother why I never saw the girls coming back again and her eyes became teary as she knew the old men would soon come after me without negotiating.
The tradition was that girls would be kidnapped at night before the ritual and forced to make an oath that should not e broken once you’ve entered the circumciser’s house.
This left the girls with no choice but to oblige.
When I was old enough to understand what was happening, I realized how many girls had lost their bright future due to FGM and arranged marriages. Many of those I knew were dying due to HIV infections because of polygamy and were languishing in poverty a life they did not choose for themselves but were subjected to.
At one point, I hated being a girl.I felt it was not worth my struggle to get better education if my life would be reduced to nothing.I recounted how I was struggling to pass in class like my counter parts regardless of missing classes five to six days every month because of periods.
I also remembered how far I went to fetch firewood and water while the boys stayed at home.
The other girls were doing the same too only to be handed over unceremoniously to useless and hopeless fellows who were out to build their names while having nothing good to offer.
As a result many girls form my community never got education. Many are languishing in poverty and have been turned into slaves. They are not happy in their new homes but have no choice because they already have many children.
Much as I was lucky to have escaped the ordeal, it gave me a reason to fight for our rights as women and for our girls. The challenges opened our eyes to seek justice where injustice was rife.
Milanoi for women and girls gave us the platform to find better ways of solving our issues and fighting retrogressive cultures that stole the bright future of our girls.
We stand united as we celebrate the journey of all the girls in the world whose lives have been impacted positively or negatively by circumstances and put our voices together to realize that we are important in the society and our efforts will protect our children.
This post was submitted in response to Growing Up Girls.