…….girls aged twelve are sold off as brides to old pastoralist men. While we anticipate the next episode of Empire, traditional women in a wasteland benightedly ululate genital mutilation of their daughters. While we anticipate the next great marathon seasoned with comedic commentators, Frida* walks two days to a neighboring county hoping to find safety and education.
In Baringo County, everything apart from Frida* is part of everyday life. Early marriage and FGM aside, women also experience gender based violence and they are denied a voice. Fortunately, Action Aid Kenya has stepped in and this is where my story begins.
There is a place called Churo in Baringo. In Churo, there is a primary school where Frida* and her younger sister ran to, when their father announced his plan to sell them off as wives to old men in Laikipia. Frida’s father is married to four wives, each with ten children. Frida’s mother is his second wife.
In Pokot culture, a man can marry as many wives as he wants provided he is wealthy enough to pay dowry, usually in form of livestock. The Pokot also believe that a larger family is indicative of wealth, so the more children you have, the better. When our team got to Frida’s homestead hidden among withered thickets on Laikipia plateau, we were greeted by a large crowd.
Once the pleasantries were out of the way, we sat down for a lengthy interview with Frida’s father, who became rather likable as he explained the traditional beliefs of his tribe. By the time we left, I was torn between inwardly weeping for the girls of Pokot and appreciation for a community that had managed to shield its culture from erosion by westernization.
Meanwhile, Frida* sits first-term examinations in seventh grade and is looking forward to becoming a lawyer when she grows up. Why? She wants to defend the rights of children in her community and beyond. Our team will be keeping an eye on this brave young woman, while the world anticipates the irrelevant.