, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 5 – Naima Nguruki and Jacqueline Shongo are about 10 years old but at such a tender age, the brutality of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and forced early marriage have separated them from their families.
It was in April this year when Shongo heard her father tell her mother that he had identified a man to pay dowry for her. The discussion sent cold chills in Shongo.
She knew she would undergo the cut the next season of the Maasai cultural practice that marks the transition of girls to womanhood.
“I was in the house when I heard my father telling my mum that he had identified a husband for me. Marriage for us means that a girl has to undergo the practice for her to become a woman, then a wife. I knew my mum was being informed to prepare for me to undergo the cut,” she recalls.
Shongo is bold and ambitious. Her eloquence as she narrates her episode demonstrates her willpower to achieve her dreams of becoming something better than a wife at the tender age of 10.
Despite her age, she has never been to school, but Shongo confidently says she can speak Swahili. However, as soon as the interview begins, she opens her narration with only two Swahili words before switching to fluent and fast Maasai trying to convince me to also understand her. A translator comes to our rescue.
Since she learnt of her parents plan, she kept calm knowing that the next season of FGM will be in August.
‘We are in July. I knew I had to look for a way of running away before August. I have my best friend Nguruki. I knew she also did not want to be cut,” Shongo says.
Nguruki, 11, is Shongo’s best friend and has also defied cultural practices to bravely defend her childhood rights.
“We do many things together; we graze our goats together and fetch firewood together,” Nguruki explains. “Shongo came running. She told me why we had to run away. We ran until we got to the main road where we could hike a lift. We stopped a lorry that was ferrying potatoes to Narok town and explained to the driver why we were escaping and he agreed to take us to town.”
The children had never been to Narok town before, but they were armed with bravery and were able to ask around until they located Shongo’s aunt who runs a business in town.
The two were taken to Tasaru FGM Rescue Centre in Narok, a place they will call home and thank for making their dreams of going to school come true despite the early separation from their families.
Nguruki and Shongo escaped FGM and early marriage by sheer luck.
But even as Shongo is happy to be at the safe house, she feels sorry for her two younger sisters aged four and six.