Stunningly beautiful Kitenga. Rich, fertile Kitenga. Friendly, vibrant Kitenga.
Yet within all this beauty of its land and its people, remain destructive cultural practices that rob girls and women of their dignity, their right to self-determination.
A village of about 7,500, spread out within the Tarime District of the Mara Region of Tanzania. Remote. Rural. Disconnected by: a lack of roads – paved or dirt; the absence of electrical poles transporting power to homes and businesses; the far and few between points of accessible clean water; and crucial services such as health care and education being grossly inadequate for the need.
These are the challenges faced by all members of the Kitenga Community. Young, old, male or female. Yet within these already tough conditions for life, girls here – and the women they become – are subjected to a way of life that given the choice, most would not choose.
Between the ages of 10 and 12, many are subjected to female genital cutting. Even if they, with the support of their families, wish not to be cut, I have been told that the ‘community’ may kidnap them and force it upon them.
I have also been told by numerous sources that many girls do not survive their cutting (kidnapped or not). If they die from the implications (bleeding, infection), their deaths are unrecorded and they are not buried. If they do survive, there are often lifetime complications that may interfere with their health, sexual development and childbirth.
After they are cut, their families negotiate a ‘bride price’, i.e. they are sold to a man into marriage. The price is often a quantity of cows or other livestock. The marriages are often to older, polygamous men. Do you think there is any 12 yr old girl in the whole world who would want, by choice, to marry an older man?
This is why the world is (finally) talking LOUDLY about the fate of millions of girls around the world. This is why (thankfully) world leaders and advocates are screaming off of mountaintops: “Let girls receive the quality education they deserve and DESIRE and see all the good things that will flow”.
Kitenga is a rich opportunity for witnessing the power of educating a girl. Stay tuned and I will post more about the unfolding Kitenga Village Project and it’s cornerstone: The Kitenga School for Girls.