Women leaders from the Pokot community have expressed concern over the high number of teenage pregnancies, early marriage and forced female genital mutilation.
Nominated member of county assembly from Kacheliba ward in West Pokot county Mary Mulee said the worrying trend has adversely affected the education of the girl child in the expansive county.
Mulee said early pregnancies have led to a rise in both poverty levels and illiteracy. Girls aged between 12 and 18 years are the most affected as they drop out of school even before they get to class eight.
She pointed out that despite other pupils looking forward to this year’s Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examinations, most girls in West Pokot are a worried lot as they may not be able to sit the examinations due to pregnancies and forced marriage.
Speaking during an interview with KNA Wednesday, the MCA expressed hope saying an initiative started by a non-governmental organization, Rural Women Peace Link that began six months ago, has changed the perception of most women in her ward on the need to let girls pursue their education.
”Unfortunately, outdated cultural practice such as FGM has adversely affected the girl child who has been marginalized in all aspects in the entire West Pokot County,” lamented Mulee
She said that those carrying out FGM have devised new ways and are doing it in secrecy unlike in the past where they held ceremonies to celebrate the initiates after successfully undergoing the cut.
“It is difficult to know when circumcision ceremonies take place or which girls have been circumcised because it is done in secrecy. Some of the girls discreetly even cross over to neighbouring Uganda to undergo the cut and return to their homes,” she said.
Rural Women Peace Link, she said, has continued to empower women through public participation which gave them an upper hand and made the majority of them to be elected in public offices, hence becoming exemplary role models for the girls.
“Many girls currently know their rights and that’s why they are running away from outdated cultural practices. We need many stakeholders on board to help them realize their dreams,” added Mulee.
The ward representative urged local chiefs and churches to take the lead in reporting cases of young girls being married off at the expense of their education.
By Kiptanui Cherono