We work in East Pokot, Kenya. One of the most vulnerable regions of the world.
Below are some of the Challenges Faced.
Female Circumcision, Forced Marriage and female Responsibility.
The Pokot girls and women are beautiful, peaceful and resilient people that struggle to survive in hostile and challenging circumstances. In the Pokot culture, a woman has no voice, especially in the public forum and no authority within her homestead. Her main role is do the house chores, take care of the children and in many cases they are the sole bread winners, scrambling to find money for food.
Female genital Mutilation (FGM) For a long time, the FGM culture has been practiced in East Pokot. Over 75% of girls between the ages of 12 and 21 have been subjected to FGM, forcing them to drop out of school to be sold into marriage, even at the ages of 7-12 to a man only known to her father. These young girls take the responsibility of a woman immediately after circumcision. According to health reports, FGM has many impacts on a woman: psychological trauma, infertility, chronic infections and severe pain during urination, delivery, menstruation, sexual intercourse and death. After FGM and pregnancy, women in East Pokot spend days in the bush trying to deliver a baby, being at risk of death and infection.
It is very common to find women and young girls walking a long distance to the market to sell milk and other commodities. While men are busy drinking and spending time in the market joints, women spend time finding ways to survive. Women also have the responsibility of constructing new houses for their families and making sure they are properly maintained. Inadequate infrastructure, lack of water, famine, drought and low rainfall make life for the women and children so difficult. As a result, women make local brews to sell so that they can buy food for their family. Almost 80% of the Pokot women who didn’t go to school are brewing. They also feed their children with the local brews as the food might not be enough. The girl child helps the mother in brewing. Girls sleep with their mothers in a small hut while the boys sleep outside near the cow sheds (Aperit).
cattle Rustling and Tribal Wars.
For many years, the Pokots have been fighting with the neighbouring tribes, the Turkanas, Marakwet, Tugen and the Njemps over livestock. During such raids, many people die and families are displaced causing the survivors to flee from the area. The people normally affected are children since many of them are not able to defend themselves or run away from the enemies. The families are normally forced to move to another area causing the children to drop out of school. At a tender age, the boy child is also introduced to handling the gun because he is the community’s protector of the livestock as well. In future, he has to protect the family against their frequent enemies who have made rustling a trade. These informal teachings make him fearless and ready to die while defending what belongs to his community. During such raids, women and young girls captured by the enemies are often raped and left for dead in the bush.
Drought and Famine
East Pokot is prone to drought and famine between the months of January and June. When drought and famine strikes, the people and animals suffer a lot. As a result, the people living in the affected regions are forced to move to other regions forcing children to drop out of school. Sadly, many adults, children and animals die as a result of food shortage. People in East Pokot are also in many instances forced to eat toxic wild fruits which they have to boil for 12 hours to make them safely edible.
Lack of Education
In spite of free primary education, children in East Pokot don’t attend school as it is not commonly valued by Pokot parents. Rather, in East Pokot, education is the art of teaching a child the traditional norms that must be observed at all stages of growth. Many children in Pokot are forced to drop out of school by their parents due poverty and culture with most victims being young primary school girls. The girls are the most affected as parents tend to marry them off in the tender ages so as to acquire more wealth. Though there is existence of laws that defends a girl from early marriage, reports of girls running away from home or refusing to go back home from school has increased