Maasai Rescue Centre
Female Genital Mutilation
Although FGM was outlawed (for under 18yr olds) in 2001, the Maasai continue to widely practice this as an important rite to womanhood. Some Maasai men insist on only marrying women who have undergone this rite. Girls are usually circumcised between the ages of 9 and 13 years and married off soon afterwards. Children, sometimes as young as 8yrs, are forced to marry mature men. Once married their education ceases.
For over a decade the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), in conjunction with UNICEF, have been working in Kenya and other African countries to end gender-based violence, including child marriage and FGM, Growing awareness of a change in attitudes to these practices is resulting in increasing number of girls and young women running away from traditional villages and hiding in the bush or expressing their fear of ‘the cut’ to teachers, pastors or other authorities. David Kereto and other pastors are often involved in rescuing these girls, sometimes at great personal risk to themselves.
Currently, orphans and rescued girls are placed with Christian families and retained in education by means of child sponsorships. These sponsorships appear to have been provided by a UK Churches associated with MEA U.K trustees. Rev David Kereto who is MEA Kenya Executive Director explained that despite these sponsorships, the increase in the number of girls seeking refuge is putting considerable strain on already impoverished families and therefore a facility specifically for this purpose is now needed.
An Overview of the Intended Project
It is the intention of the MEA to build the Rescue Centre on a parcel of land given to them by Narok Town Council. This land is situated on the outskirts of Narok Town.
The main residential block will be a single storey, ‘L’shaped, stone structure comprising of:
- Dormitory accommodation for 144 girls
- Bedroom and washing/toilet facilities for an on site matron who will care for the girls physical and emotional needs.
- A small kitchen
- Reception/interview room
- Toilets for the residents across a small courtyard but within the confines of the exterior walls of the building in order that their safety can be ensured.
- Facilities for the residents to wash their own clothes also within the safety of the courtyard area.
Once this phase has been complete it is intended to add to the facilities by building a communal dinning/meeting area with cooking facilities and a separate house, for a pastor and his wife. The pastor will be available for the spiritual needs of the girls and his wife will assist with their emotional and physical needs. It is also planned to erect a church building at a later date.
Having a Pastor and his wife living on site would be important for the smooth running of the project and the welfare of the girls. It might therefore be advantageous to prioritise the building of a Pastor’s house over the 2nd arm of the residential block, dependent on demand for places of safety.
Rain water will be harvested on site, where it is practical to do so, but it is expected that this will need to be supplemented by fresh water brought onto the site by tanker. An electricity supply is available just outside the site boundary and it is hoped that this can be accessed. Failing this a generator will need to be installed.
There will be a secure boundary enclosing the whole site to ensure a high level of protection, as attempts might well be made by families to forcibly remove rescued girls against their will.
During term time it is intended that the girls will continue their education at local boarding schools by means of bursaries and/or sponsorships. The residential facilities may then be used as a Missionary Training Institute to provide training for Maasai Pastors and Evangelists, who are called by God to be train on Missions, Evangelism, Discipleship and Church Planting.
Once the students have completed their schooling, they will be assisted in exploring further educational or work opportunities.
While it is essential that these young women have access to a place of safety free from female abuse. It is also important to work with families and traditional Maasai communities, from which the girls have fled, to bring about reconciliation and reintegration, where appropriate and safe to do so.
Part of the ethos of this project is that rescued girls will be exposed to the gospel and learn that Jesus loves them and values them as women. Work with Maasai families and communities will also give evangelistic opportunities for sharing the Christian faith.
Funds from well wishers has enabled building work to commence on the residential block.
More dormitory rooms can be added as and when finances to proceed become available. The building has been so designed that on completion the matron will be able to see the full length of both arms of the ‘L shaped’ structure from her quarters.
A water tank had also been built, with underground pipe work to the residential block
A full-time watchman has been employed. He currently sleeps in the shell of the new building in order to prevent theft of tools and building materials. This will be an ongoing expense once the project is up and running. A matron will also need to be employed, as might other staff such as a cook and a pastor and his wife.
Further funds will be necessary to continue and complete this initial stage of the project (the completion of the residential block and/or building a pastor’s house).
Sponsorships and/or bursaries need to be sought in order that the girls rescued can continue their education.
As the MEA Recue Centre is a sizable project, with plans and scope for continued development,
This project appears to be well thought out and this is apparent in the development so far. As can be seen from the recommendations, funding is needed in order to fulfil the initial stages.
The project also brings together secular and spiritual objectives for the improved physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual wellbeing of the Maasai rescued girls. If these girls can get proper job training, they will find sustainable employment in Kenya, and return to their communities to provide ongoing economic benefit to their families. As teachers, nurses, lawyers, or in other respected professions these young women will help bring an end to FGM and forced childhood marriage among the Maasai people.
A young Maasai girl has a ONE TIME value to her family when sold off in marriage. If this same girl can go to school, develop a job skill, and have an economic livelihood she will instead provide an ONGOING AND LONGTERM economic benefit.