Three years ago, Sharon’s life resonated with American President Franklin Roosevelt’s famous quote, “When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.” She was born and raised in North Pokot, Ken-ya, an area known for perpetuating harmful customs to girls. This included Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and child marriage, a practice that is illegal in Kenya. Sharon*, who was twelve at the time, knew she was at risk of being circumcised and handed over to a potential suitor for marriage. The only hope she had was her grandmother who could protect her from being married off.
She recalls, “The worst thing that happened to me, was the day my parents parted ways... I knew my fate was sealed and it was just a matter of time, before my father would have me drop from school, and make sure I underwent the FGM and marry me off as per the dictates of our culture.”
Luckily, her grandmother noticed her love for education and realized her son was scheming to marry Sharon off, so she did the unthinkable. Sharon’s grandmother reported the matter to the area chief.
World Vision dreams of a Kenya without FGM and child marriage. The Kenya Big Dream project is transforming attitudes and promoting community-based reporting. The project includes changing social norms, ensuring safe spaces for children to learn, and promoting education and life skills training.
The area chief took action, and along with government authorities, arranged for Sharon to be taken to Morpus Safe School. The school helps protect girls who are threatened by the cultural practice of FGM and child marriage.
She says, “I remember the first day I reported to the center, the head teacher of Morpus Primary School, James Lokuk, was very sympathetic with my plight and he assured me that I will be admitted in Grade 7. I assured myself that I will use every available minute to study to the best of my abilities despite the circumstances that I was in.”
World Vision works closely with schools like Morpus to support vulnerable girls and help them to continue their education.
Last year Sharon sat for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exams. In Kenya’s educational system, this exam determines a child’s progress to high school. She knew her dreams rested on her performing well on the exams. To the surprise of everyone, she emerged the best in the school with a score of 360 out of 500 and gained direct admission to the prestigious Tar Tar Girls High School.
Thanks to her grandmother, the area chief, teachers and her hard work, Sharon is hanging on to her dream. She has applied for and received a scholarship to progress on to high school. In addition, Sharon will receive mentorship and leadership training during her four-year period in secondary school to equip her with life skills.