7 March 2017

Saved by Cricket and a brother's love

Guest blog by Esther Njenga.

Nancy is a bubbly, kind and intelligent girl who just last year successfully completed high school. Getting to this landmark stage of her life is nothing but a journey of courage and sacrifice not only for her but also for her two brothers who have stood by her through her trying times.

Now you ask what is Nancy’s story? Here we go! Nancy is a Maasai girl; a community that still holds the ritual of FGM as an integral part of their culture and one that defines one’s recognition as a Maasai woman.  At the age of 12 while still in primary school she was supposed to undergo FGM which would have meant the discontinuance of her education and early marriage.

But here come her two brothers Benjamin and Daniel, avid cricket players with the Maasai Cricket Warriors (MCW), a cricket team whose popularity is swiftly growing throughout Kenya and the Cricket world; and who have used their growing popularity to campaign against FGM within their community. Benjamin and Daniel had learnt about the harm caused by FGM, and knew that once cut a girl’s education would end, and she would often be married off immediately. The two brothers were determined to spare their sister Nancy from that life.

In a courageous move, the two brothers approached their parents,  teaching and showing them all they had learned about FGM and its negative consequences. They went further to involve their MCW team members and together they petitioned their community elders spreading the message against FGM and encouraging the education of the girls within their community. This was an incredibly brave step for the MCW to take, as in Maasai culture, young people do not question or speak out against their parents and elders. Their efforts were not met without resistance. For Benjamin, Daniel and Nancy they had to contend with family strife. As for the MCW team members, they were viewed as trying to do away with valuable traditions and corrupting the youth of their community. It took persistence for the team to convince the elders and community at large to abandon the practice and support the continued education of their girls. Nevertheless, they succeeded in what seemed like an odious task. 

Needless to say after the uphill task, Nancy did not undergo FGM and was able to finish primary school and join Daraja Academy in Laikipia for her secondary education. She met like-minded girls who all have similar stories of resisting FGM and/or Early Marriage. In the safe haven that is Daraja Academy, they have become the face of campaigning against FGM and Child Marriage in their various communities. The courage shown by the two brothers and Nancy has meant that their younger sisters have not undergone FGM and continue with their education. The trickle-down effect has meant that the sisters and other female family members of the MCW team members have not undergone FGM.  With the support of the elders taking a stand to stop FGM within their community, community members are embracing the message not just to stop FGM but with an understanding of why it needs to stop.

Nancy’s is but one positive story; one that brings out the importance and effectiveness of the youth speaking out on issues that affect them. A story that points to the efficacy of involving our communities at large in the discourse on issues of culture and human rights where these two collide. Nancy wants to become a doctor as she continues to be a role model to younger girls in her community, inspiring them to speak out against FGM and continue their education.  This is a story that reminds us that change is possible.

Together we can #EndFGM