When My Home Became a Prison

I remember being 11 years old and locked inside my parents’ house. Outside, people stood guard to ensure I wouldn’t escape. They were going to cut me and I had no choice. I underwent what they call female genital mutilation. I had only just finished my sixth grade exams. Immediately after they started negotiating my bride price.

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Photo by Rehema Baya

My name is Simu* and I am now 17-years-old. I come from a large Masaai family; my father has four wives and I am one of his 35 children. My sister and half-sisters before me were also cut. It is performed to prepare girls in our area for marriage. Just one month after the trauma, as my wounds were still healing, I was woken up by five men in the middle of the night. They took me from my bed and forced me to walk for many hours on the cold, dark night. One of these five men was my husband-to-be.

As we walked along the road I reflected on how insignificant I was to my parents, and even contemplated suicide. My dreams of finishing school didn’t matter to them at all. Incredibly, as the sun began to rise, I spotted a World Vision van driving along the road. I made a break for freedom and the staff inside the van were able to care for me and reinstate me in school using threats against my disgruntled parents that they would be taken to court if they tried to interfere.

In the short term I stayed with a cousin but had to endure the complaints of my father every time he had to sell a cow to pay for my schooling. He said the sale of each cow was the same as having one eaten by a lion or die from sickness since educating a girl was a waste of resources.
Several years later, at the end of 2015 and once I had finished my schooling, my parents said they had forgiven me and took me back in. But almost immediately my home became a prison once more – I was effectively under house arrest with my mother guarding me night and day. Before long I overheard my father discussing with a relative of the man they originally intended me to marry that he was to come for me once more; I had no choice but to run away, so borrowing Sh200 from my brother along with the Sh300 I already had saved I took a bus to Nairobi not knowing where I would go – only that the only other option was that I die.

Once in Nairobi I borrowed a phone and called a cousin who agreed to take me in. After a few days, he contacted HAART after finding them on Facebook. I was very anxious initially and wasn’t sure whether the two women from HAART would be able to help, but eventually they placed me in a shelter, to avoid my family tracking me down, before taking me to a boarding school in September last year.

I am now studying hard and pursuing my dreams to become an engineer at a university in the US or one of the top universities here in Kenya. No one can disturb me now or interfere with my dreams. This is my opportunity and I will not let myself or those who have rescued me down; HAART believed in me and saved me from my parents.
* Name was changed

By Winnie Mutevu