Josephine was born 28 years ago. Her mother was uprooted from Form Two and forced to marry her late father as a second wife.
• She is a trained nurse, but runs a foundation she established aimed at rescuing young girls from early marriage and female genital mutilation.
• She comes from a community where a relative or non relative are allowed to engage a girl as young as six years.
• On engaging her, by putting a red beaded necklace round her neck, he is permitted to have sex with her.
Josephine Kulea, 28, escaped from her Samburu community’s hideous culture of beading and early marriage to get an education. Now a nurse, she has dedicated her life to rescuing Samburu girls from the harmful practices, writes Kiundu Waweru
In Samburu, a herd of eight cows is significant. This is a reward to parents for the great work of bringing forth a baby girl. But for the girl child, a herd of eight cows is a life sentence, even death.
|Josephine Kulea. [Photo: Maxwell Agwanda/Standard]|
It all begins when the girl is about six years old. On ‘noticing’ her, a male relative puts a beaded red necklace on her neck. The tradition of beading allows the male relative to have sex with the girl, and ironically at the same time forbids a baby born out of this arrangement.
Non-relatives also engage in beading, a symbol of “engagement”. The parents need not be informed, but on noticing the necklace, they prepare the minor for marriage. First on the list is the cut; female genital mutilation.
Not many girls in Isiolo, North Eastern Province of the Samburu community escape this hideous custom.
Josephine Kulea considers herself lucky for having escaped, and after the privilege of education, she has returned to the community to rescue the hapless girls.
It goes back many moons. Josephine was in Class Four in Samburu when a friend of hers, in Standard Six was forcibly taken out of school by her parents for an early marriage. A charitable priest in the area got wind of it, and came to this girl’s rescue.
“He said he had room for two more girls,” remembers Josephine, “and asked our teachers to select a bright girl.”
Josephine fit the bill, and she was lucky that her parents were progressive thinkers. She was whisked away to a boarding primary school in Meru.
Two years later, Josephine’s father passed on. The uncles massaged their bellies in glee and approached Josephine’s mother demanding to “sell off’’ their daughter.
“My mother was not having any of it,” says Josephine. “My mother was uprooted in Form Two to marry my father as a second wife and she vowed that her daughters would get a good education.”