The Pokot girl child in Tiaty Sub County, Baringo County is now aggressively going against the deeply entrenched cultural grain. Hundreds of girls are becoming conscious of their right to education, and their right to say no to the retrogressive gender based violence.
With the recent sensitization on the dangers of the atrocious female genital mutilation and early marriages, there is a great awakening within the Pokot community where women are becoming bold to challenge the status quo in a community where male voices have dominated for long.
The indomitable Maria Losile representing Loyamorok ward is leading in the fight against retrogressive cultural practices within the Pokot community. In the same league are Eunice Kakerel from Churo, Florence Lomariwo from Chemolingot, Annah Chewochoi Morwaze from Kositei and Mary Kuket from Tangulbei.
Under their sensitization campaigns, the Pokot girl is already breaking the chains of cultural slavery as the rays of a new dawn continue to penetrate the skies of Tiaty.
Tangulbei Day and Boarding primary school is the refuge for girls running away from forced marriages and the bloody Female Genital Mutilation and early marriages.
Thirty five girls aged between nine to thirteen years have already sought refuge at the institution and the administration is already overwhelmed-to say the least. In an interview with The Scholar, the school head teacher Musa Terter reveals that his school will not close a door to any a girl seeking refuge, but this according to him does not mean there are no challenges in the move towards that direction.
“Because of their big thirst for education, most of these girls are joining class one at the age of twelve years. They are from as far as Kalapata, Cherelkat, Kasitet, Karolwo and Pombo, and together with the local security agencies, the school is fighting hard to chase away the parents who threaten to storm the school with an aim of forcibly taking away their daughters.
The girls need uniforms, shoes and other girl necessities. They also need food since they don’t go home when schools close,’’ said the administrator, speaking in the presence of Tangulbei location administrator Senior Chief Josphat Kipkiror, both making a passionate appeal to well-wishers to come on board and give hope to the Pokot girl. Most of them say they want to become nurses and Doctors in future.
The County government of Baringo and other development stakeholders are investing resources and time into activities like peace caravans, workshops but according to other stakeholders like Terter, that is not the right way to go. It is all about education.
It is worth note that according to many pastoral communities where the Pokot are also included, cattle rustling are not a crime perse, but an ancient, deeply entrenched economic activity practiced by young men not only to attain a status of respect in the community through wealth, but to pay bride price for one or more girls.
Make the girls more educated, and the uneducated men will not see the need to conduct cattle raids.
According to the unschooled men from the Pokot Community and of who are the majority, a girl who goes to school is an enemy of the community.
For a Pokot man to remain a man he must avoid that educated girl or there will be two centers of power in his home.
To begin with, that educated girl is a big opponent of the Female Genital Mutilation, a cultural learning process that is alleged to be very efficient in preparing a girl to face the reality of womanhood and mostly, her sacred duty to never question the authority of her husband, mostly if he decides to marry a second or a third wife.
A local administrator from Chemolingot who spoke during this interview and wish to remain anonymous is of the opinion that; a girl who goes to university is no longer worthy to become a wife to a conservative Pokot Man.
A schooled girl is trained to question her cultural believes and to challenge the authority of her husband. Compared to her counterpart who has never ventured beyond her village of birth, this educated woman is indoctrinated to believe that her husband should look at her not as a woman, but as an equal to him.
He should never curtail her freedoms, including the freedom not to be at home for as many nights she wants.
“No conservative man in Pokot Land would want a woman like that for a wife, not even as a mistress,’’ said the administrator.
A Pokot girl who has never been to school is a priceless jewel; they are becoming rare each year. When you find one, you have found a meteorite fallen from the heavens! Any man worth his salt is always ready to pay any number of cattle to have such a girl for a wife.
Compared to her schooled counterpart who is privileged to enjoy her sexual freedoms, and calling the police every time you raise a finger, an unschooled Pokot girl believed to be pure in both mind and the physical aspect.
During her period of seclusion after undergoing the Female Genital Mutilation, she and ‘her classmates’ were trained not only to submit, but to be sexually faithful to their husbands.
According to Eunice Kakerel, a nominated Member of the Baringo County assembly, unschooled girls from the Pokot Land believe that a real husband material is not that guy who went to Nairobi to read some books, but the fellow with a real herd of cattle! That brave fellow who has made several successful raids and even killed ”the enemy” using his AK 47 machine.
“This is the mindset we are working so hard to change amongst our girls. We want support from women who can play in the leagues of Linah Jebii Kilimo, former Marakwet East Legislator and a passionate anti FGM crusader,’’ said Kakerel who does not waver. She is accusing the seating National Anti FGM board of laxity.
Despite the unseen wars between the conservatives and those keen to midwife a new era in Pokot Land, the runway is clear for a successful takeoff into the worlds of modernity.
With social media taking hold of the young generations, girls and boys from this part of Baringo are also busy interacting with the rest of the world, even across the oceans right from the palms of their hands! Women are joining politics, beating the men hands down, ask Maria Losile who now represents Loyamorok ward.
To a modern Pokot girl, a real husband material is no longer the bandit who sheds innocent blood in the business of stealing cattle, but the fellow who will win her heart by embracing modernity through that universal light called education.
They are waking up to the reality that bride price should no longer be in the form of some skinny cattle, illegally owned by men who raid and terrorize the neighbouring tribes.
Bride price can be in the form of bank notes and in any case, a woman or a girl is not even a commodity for sale! This is fact many pastoral communities including the Pokot are yet to embrace not because they don’t want to, but because they are still stuck in an ancient civilization.
“Give them Education and they will let go their ancient practices,’’ said Bishop Maurice Muhatia of the Catholic Diocese of Nakuru.
Speaking at Tangulbei during a funds drive to educate children from the Pokot community, Bishop Muhatia said the Pokot child only has only two options to choose from in his or her life-Cattle and a husband.
He said the only way to uplift the lifestyle of the Pokot community is by educating their women-the Pokot girl.