Mary Walker: Seminar allows sharing |

Mary Walker: Seminar allows sharing

Young girls address traumatic experiences together

Mary Walker

All of the girls at the rescue centre and I have just returned from an Anti-FGM/Forced Marriage seminar held at a nearby school. We spent two nights away from the centre, sleeping in the dormitory of the boys boarding school hosting the seminar. The girls were very excited, initially, about the opportunity to be away from the rescue centre environment. When we arrived at the school, however, we were struck by the dirt, garbage, smell, and general uncleanliness of the school. Boys, boys, boys :

The seminar itself was amazing, interesting and engaging. Organized by a large church here in Kenya, with many congregations, it was led by a young Maasai woman who defied her family and fought her circumcision. She has the scars on her legs from the dogs that were released to attack her for doing so. The main speaker was a Kenyan professor, a middle-aged Maasai man who eloquently and entertainingly laid out the case for bringing an end to FGM/forced marriage among his own people.

The girls from the rescue centre are well versed in these types of seminars, they attend at least two a year. I can sense, particularly in the older girls, that they are somewhat numb to the presentations. They have lived and breathed every detail of what is presented from the blood loss, the pain, medical problems and emotional trauma that is related over and over in these types of seminars. I look forward to the day, for them, when they have left the rescue centre and are out in the world as young women, not as FGM/Forced Marriage “rescued girls.” When they are seen and known for who they are, not for what they experienced as young girls.

But being away from the centre still was enjoyable. There was singing and dancing at night. A group of six girls from the rescue centre put on a skit about a secondary school student who gets pregnant after her parents fail to pay her school fees and she is “chased from school.” The topic was serious, but the girls did an amazing job of satirizing the environment at their secondary schools, right down to the spinster headmistress. They expressed their keen awareness of the many challenges and dangers – including the young Kenyan men who prey on young girls – that they face in this culture. I can’t promise that all of the girls at the rescue centre will make it through life unscathed, but I do have hope that they are as well prepared as possible given their Maasai backgrounds for all of what could lie ahead for them.

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