In The Shadow Of Kilimanjaro: Week 7

Our New Community Water Tower In Front Of Kilimanjaro

Our New Community Water Tower In Front Of Kilimanjaro

I missed my blog last week so I will do the next two weeks in a row. A lot has happened since my last update. We hosted a conference and invited police, doctors, paralegals, politicians, the department of children’s services, community leaders, the department of education, and others. We started a network of stakeholders for child protection in our sub-county. We discussed the major issues of reporting FGM in our sub-county as well as the necessity of cooperation. I hosted a training session on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, specifically SDG 5 which is Gender Equality. We had some great discussions and it was one of the first times that leaders from these various departments and offices challenged each other on the issues. It was well received and led to another set of meetings two weeks later. These follow up meetings were held at the individual offices of each stakeholders. They were more focused on how we can cooperate to solve each others challenges. The stakeholders were much more forthcoming in their own offices, and we learned a lot more. For example, we knew that in order to carry a case of FGM or Child Marriage to court we needed a form called a P3 to be filled by a medical professional. These forms include an assessment of the victims physical and mental condition. We also knew that doctors were reluctant to fill out these forms and that it has often impeded justice from coming to the perpetrators. What we learned was that when a doctor signs a P3 they are committing themselves to appear in court. Court cases are heard 3 hours away and there is no reimbursement to the doctor. So doctors have to leave there post, where they are already short on doctors, and use their own money to reach the court. Most of the doctors don’t even own their own vehicle and have to pay for a ride. This is a challenge we needed to know about so we could work with the government to solve it. There are many other examples of these kinds of revelations coming to light. I would say the trainings were very successful.

We are now preparing for a much larger conference at a venue near Nairobi. We are hosting it in conjunction with Equality Now. It is a meeting of all of the Charitable Children’s Institutions (non-profits and NGOs that support children) in Kajiado County. It is a three day conference and has been requiring a lot of preparation. I may be hosting one of the training sessions there too, we will see.

Two weeks ago, I got to ride along with the police to rescue a 9 year old girl from child marriage to an elderly man. We got on Sunday that a girl had been married off. We new her approximate location and had some photos from the wedding. We organized on Monday and Left on Tuesday. We left in the afternoon. I was riding in the back of a police truck with a couple of officers and their AK-47 rifles. We drove down the rockiest dirt roads, hours into a rural area, going about 100km/h. We brought with us a contact who knew the area. We arrived at a local clinic and spoke with a lady we knew. She did not know where the girl was, but she directed toward some people who might. We arrived at a Boma that  was throwing some kind of party. There were about 35 older men there. We discovered that one of them was a Nyumba Kumi representative (a type of elected community leader). He told the police he would lead us to the girl. We put him in the cab and hit the road. 15 minutes later we reached a fork in the road and he decided not to help us anymore. He refused to give the police anymore directions. The police removed him from the cab, disarmed him of his cane and machete, handcuffed him, and put him in the back of the truck with us. We no longer had a lead so we pulled up to the nearest Boma and asked for help. Everyone at the Boma refused to help us and it was now pitch black dark. We couldn’t find the girl. So, we returned to town and booked the Nyumba Kumi guy into the jailhouse.

The morning we returned to the police station and interrogated the Nyumba Kumi guy. After a night n jail, he agreed to take us to the girl. We loaded the truck again, riding in the back, still armed with AKs, and the police decided to take a short cut through Tanzania. We headed straight for the mountain, drove up it a bit, and then came down the edge back into Kenya. We arrived at the Boma where the girl was. She was just a small child. 7 of the man’s other wives were there but there was no sign of the man. Apparently he works in Mombasa, which is about a 8-9 hour drive from where we were, and had left the day before. The girl told us the marriage was her idea and asked us to leave, after talking with her for some time she revealed that some men in the community came to her after we couldn’t find her the day before. They told her to say that so we would leave. We had told the group of men the day before that if she said told us to go we would leave, that way when they went to her maybe they would not take her away to Tanzania. Our small deceit worked. We were able to bring the girl with us back to town. To the other wives dismay, we carried with us all of the expensive wedding attire they had bought for her.

The rescue was a success, but reaction s the worst part of our job. We have to work to make sure these things never happen in the first place. What happens now is the police will probably arrest the girls father for accepting a dowry and forcing her into marriage. They will arrest the man who married her, the police know him and should have him soon. The family and community will be broken up, the girl will have to testify against her family, all the while she is recovering from bodily injury and severe trauma.

That was an experience I will never forget. I thank God that there are people from the Hope Beyond Foundation that are here to protect these children.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email me at cmbonds@email.wm.edu.

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