Caroline was just seven when her mother forced her to undergo FGM and stopped her from going to school. When her mother then arranged for her to be married to a sixty year old man, Caroline finally understood why she had been cut and made the desperate choice to run away from home.
Here Caroline talks about her how she managed to escape:
“My father died when I was young. My mother would drink local brew and didn’t have any source of income. She had nothing and would move around from village to village. The little money she got, she use to go drinking and sometimes we would go hungry.
“My mother put me through FGM when I was was only seven years old. One weekend a lady came to visit. Very early in the morning, I was woken up by my mother and she told me to undress.
“I was not washed or shaved, and I remember the woman was so dirty. She used a razor blade. They sat me down, my mum held me back and I was cut. I bled so much I fainted. After they circumcised me, they put ash on the wound but it wouldn’t stop bleeding all day.
“I hated my mother and the circumciser but I didn’t know what to do about it. I had not heard about FGM and I didn’t know what was happening. Nobody talked to me about why they had done it, I was not told anything. They just gave me milk and porridge to eat.
“I thought after it was done my life could continue. I didn’t realize it would be the end of my schooling. It took around two months for me to heal completely and my mother said she had no money for me to pay for my education so instead I had to take care of the cows.
“Then my mother told me that because she had no income it was time to get someone to take me as their wife. She explained that I was going to move to a new home. She said “Now that you have become a woman I have nothing to feed you, and so you will be married. You have to respect him and do whatever he tells you.”
“The man I was meant to marry was 60, the age my father would have been.
“At first I didn’t realize but then I made the connection between the two things. Thinking about it still pains me today - my mother cut me so I could be married to an old man.
“When my mother told me what she was planning I resisted. She said she had the final say in the family. There was confrontation between us and I decided I had to go, I didn’t know where to but I just had to leave my home for anywhere.
“The following day I left to Narok. I didn’t know where Narok was but I had heard Agnes Pareyio talking on the radio about girls who are rescued from FGM. She said any girl who has a problem could find her there.”
“When I arrived they told me to go to the children’s office. I explained my story and in the evening I was taken to TNI's (Tasaru Ntomonok Initiative) rescue house. After two days I started school.
“My favorite subjects are maths, science and social studies. I would like to be a doctor because I want to help people who are suffering. That way I can help women, both those who have been cut and those who haven’t. We need to stop FGM with immediate effect and to put a law in place banning cutting.
"That is my message to the world: they should not harm girls in any way.”
The connection between FGM and child marriage
FGM involved the the partial or complete removal of external female genitalia for non-medical reasons. It has zero health benefits and can have lifelong medical consequences. The procedure itself can even be fatal.
For some communities in Kenya, FGM is seen as a rite of passage to adulthood. The procedure often acts as a precursor to violations of girls rights such as child marriage.
Caroline is just one of up to 15 million girls affected by child marriage every year, an act which impacts on women’s rights to health, education, equality and a life free from violence and exploitation.
Jean-Paul Murunga, End Harmful Practices officer for international women’s rights organisation Equality Now explains: “Child marriage is a human rights violation, often following from and leading to further human rights violations such as FGM. It is a violent and abusive practice that stems from and sustains discrimination against women and girls."
"It excludes girls from decisions regarding the timing of marriage and the choice of spouse, and is an abrupt and violent initiation into sexual relations. Child brides are often isolated and because of their marital status have little access to education and other services generally provided to children.”
To hear more about what Equality Now is doing to end child marriage and FGM go to www.equalitynow.org.
Equality Now was founded in 1992 with the mission of using legal advocacy to protect and promote the human rights of women and girls. For more than 25 years, we have been using the law to create a just world for women and girls. By directing global public and media attention on individual cases [...]