Girl protecting girls from FGM
One girl’s narrow escape from FGM and child marriage inspires her to help others
Destined for child marriage
Lilian, 26, is a vibrant presenter in a popular radio station in Baringo County, Kenya. As a pioneer female journalist in her community, she uses her career to fight for the rights of children, especially girls who are vulnerable to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and child marriages in her home area.
Growing up, Lilian never dreamed of the life she has now.
"As the first born girl in a family of seven children, my parents always knew that at some point, based on our culture, they would have me circumcised and married off so they could get more cattle through my dowry," she states.
Having large herds of cattle is viewed as a sign of wealth among her community. As such, families are often eager to ‘sell off’ their daughters to the highest bidder. Lilian always feared that she would suffer the same fate.
From an early age, she was allowed to go to school, where she excelled due to her love for education.
"But at the back of my mind, I knew that all this would end and I would be forced to stop learning in my teens so as to undergo FGM and get married," says Lilian.
Mother’s courage protects her daughter
At the age of 12, when she was a year shy of living her worst nightmare, Lilian's mother came to her rescue.
"My mum was circumcised and this caused her so much suffering. She couldn't imagine me going through the same pain. So, she sought help from a local church and took me to a boarding school that was far away from home, where I could be safe," she says.
Thanks to her bold move, Lilian was able to complete her primary and secondary education. She emerged as the best performer in her region and proceeded to university where she graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Communications and Journalism.
But not all mothers are as brave, and not all families have the resources to make such a move. Lilian knew this, and decided to come back home and use her journalism career to fight against injustices and violence against women and girls in her community.
A voice for the voiceless
Through the support of World Vision's Gender Equality and Women Empowerment project, (which is funded by the United Nations Population Fund in Kenya), Lilian has received extensive training on children's rights and how to advocate against FGM, child marriages and other types of violence that children face.
And now, she passes this knowledge to other men and women who have since joined her on the child protection journey. Over the last couple of years, their efforts have doubled as school closures increased children’s risk of abuse.
As a group, they constantly check on children in the community and report any cases of abuse to the relevant authorities such as the police, child protection officers and area chiefs.
"I fight for the rights of the children through the radio. Together with my group, we also sensitise the community on what the law says about FGM and the repercussions," she says.
Lilian notes that her intention is to become the voice of the voiceless children being abused in the society.
Playing his part to end violence against women and girls
Following in Lilian’s footsteps, is 24-year-old Kenneth who is also rallying men in his community to abandon harmful cultural practices and be the protectors of girls and women.
After participating in a sensitisation forum organised by World Vision and UNFPA in Kenya, he decided to become an anti-FGM champion.
"My take home message from the training was that we should play our part as men to ensure that we end FGM in the next ten years by all means possible," he says.
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