News / Africa

Masai Woman Makes Rescuing Girls from Early Marriage Life Mission

Masai girls, now in school instead of being married young, at Priscilla Nangurai's rescue center in Kajiado, Kenya, July 13, 2012. (VOA/Jill Craig)
Masai girls, now in school instead of being married young, at Priscilla Nangurai's rescue center in Kajiado, Kenya, July 13, 2012. (VOA/Jill Craig)
Jill Craig
KAJIADO, Kenya – In traditional Masai culture, fathers often promise their young daughters in marriage to older men. Most girls are between the ages of 12 and 14, with some even younger. Not only are their bodies too immature to deal with sexual intercourse and childbirth, but they are also usually forced to drop out of school. One Masai woman is on a personal quest to rescue these girls from early marriage, in addition to helping her community understand the benefits of educating their daughters.

Priscilla Nangurai knows the hardships faced by Masai women. Her older sister was forced into marriage at a young age, but insisted that Nangurai be given an education instead of taking the same path. As a result, she was able to become a teacher, allowing her to rescue other girls from forced marriage.

Officially retired since 2005, Nangurai runs GRACE -- the Girls’ Rights, Attention, Care and Education rescue center -- from her backyard in Kajiado, Kenya. There, she ensures the girls receive an education.

Nangurai says that the problem begins when the girl is very young - and sometimes not yet even born. She explains the concept of "booking" a wife.

“Booking is when a parent, or a man, wants to marry from a certain family. So he can go to the family and if there are little girls there, he will book," she explained. "If one of the wives is expectant, he will say, ‘I want something from this womb.’ And he’s allowed to do that.”

Roseline, 14, has been at Nangurai’s rescue center since 2008. She was four years old when she was booked to a man she estimates was about 60 to 70 years old.

“Yes, I was booked. But when I knew the person they had booked me, I just talked to Mrs. Nangurai and told her the whole story and then (s)he told me, ‘I will come and take you,” Roseline recalled.

In Masai culture, once the booking has been made, the man starts paying dowry to the girl’s father. Traditionally the payment is made in cows, although today, money can also be exchanged. Once the girl’s father and the husband-to-be determine that the marriage will soon take place, the girl must undergo female circumcision, otherwise known as Female Genital Mutilation.

Priscilla, 13, was brought to the rescue center when she was five, thanks to her mother who was adamant that her daughter receive an education. Priscilla says that health concerns alone make her thankful that she didn’t have to undergo circumcision. She is especially concerned with HIV - another threat.

“They don’t circumcise one person with one razor blade. Maybe when we are two girls, they can use this one to the first girl and then they use it again to another one. So that’s why I don’t want that,” she says.

Priscilla says that sometimes the circumciser doesn’t even have a razor blade, instead using a piece of scrap metal. Once married, girls continue to suffer the physical toll.
“Physically, the child is not ready for sexual intercourse, for giving birth and I’ve seen that most of the girls that get married early, give birth to still babies," Nangurai explained. "We have records from the district hospital. Then, giving birth, is very, very difficult for them. And, most of them have to have a Cesarean section, when they are giving birth, the first birth. Because they are very young, 13 years, 14 years. Really, these are children, giving birth to children.”

Traditionally, the practice of early marriage was used to cement bonds between families and to protect and increase wealth, which was measured in cows.

“Let me say, in the olden days, the Masai were very wealthy. They had huge numbers of animals. So he brought in many wives, to take care of his wealth," she said. "But now there’s nothing to take care of, because they are diminishing. Because of poverty, and because of persisting droughts, the animals are dying. So they don’t have that kind of animals now. But they still want to be recognized at [the] village level, by your age-mates. ‘Oh, I have five wives,’ ‘I have six wives.’ The more wives you have, the wealthier you are.”

Priscilla says that the Masai should educate all the girls, who will later find good jobs and be able to support their families. She says the dowry payment of cows is only short-term gain.

“The cattle can come, you have given [them] away, and your future is over. But now, if you’re educated, you can continue to help your village and help your family,” she said.
Nangurai says that it is not easy to change deeply engrained cultural views. But she refuses to give up.

“When I retired, the men really rejoiced, I hear there were celebrations. Because ‘Oh, she has retired, we can do what we want,'” she recalled.

Nangurai has rescued more than 700 girls since 1986. She now has 15 girls at her center and is building a dormitory to house up to 80 girls.

You May Like

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Nats from: Lagos
July 18, 2012 3:55 PM
Early marriage is a problem for many African communities. I Abakaliki, Nigeria, it was the norm until recently. It must stop. There is an urgent need to train African girls because the women are taking over from the men as family heads.


by: Nats from: Lagos Nigeria
July 18, 2012 3:52 PM
I pray he survives so that he can stop the on-going state terror against freedom of speech and the senseless incarceration of Ethiopians who use the social media.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violencei
X
Lenny Ruvaga
November 27, 2014 7:05 PM
The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid