News out of Kenya recently revealed that a teenage girl was saved from having to fulfill an early marriage. As reported by John Kamau of The Star, the girl escaped child marriage thanks in part to the intervention of local residents and the help of police officials in Mitikenda, a community in Ruiru.
The 15-year old girl had been residing with an unidentified 24 year-old man for what officials say was at least one month. It was reported that the Form Three Student who remains unnamed, was attending a Secondary School in the town of Laikipia when she eloped with a the man last December. Early matrimony is a common occurrence throughout Kenya, one that activists fight to prevent but is not always averted. Every day at least 39,000 girls are forced into child marriages–that amounts to 27 girls per minute as reported by UNFPA in Kenya. Child brides face unimagined danger with a high risk of death or injury at childbirth.
The Secondary School that the teenager was attending is located in Laikipia, a county that has fought to prevent child marriages by providing incentives. As reported earlier this year when Laikipia’s Governor Joshua Irungu made a pledge and promised cattle rewards to parents who committed to educating their daughters through Laikipia’s School system. “We are ready to give the incentive as a way of fighting child marriages,” said Mr. Irungu back in October.
Josses Ntuiga the Chief of Gikumari reported that officials were able to apprehend the 24 year-old man after receiving a tip from members of the local community. Although marrying a child bride is against the laws of Kenya the practice still runs rampant and is not always policed. Authorities in Mitikenda take the child bride laws very seriously. Prosecuting the crime of child marriage will ultimately help in the prevention of infant mortality among potential child brides. Child marriage remains one of the main driving forces for adolescent pregnancy.
“We are now seeing the fruits of community policing Nyumba Kumi. We appreciate the action residents took and urge other locals to cooperate with us by giving information that will lead to curbing crime and anti-social vices in this region,” Chief Ntuiga stated. The Chief further relayed that the man will be charged with cohabiting with a minorwhich is against the law. The community commends the local authorities for protecting their daughters.
While more needs to be done to spotlight the issues of child matrimony in Kenya, the education of parents is also necessary. Families, out of fear of pregnancy oftentimes accept early marriage situations in order to save on the costs of pregnancy and care. Fighting to end Child Marriage will help break the cycle of both poverty and violence among young women and families.
“The two thought that they were very safe here in Kiambu but they forgot that we are not asleep. We are always ready to fight such crimes. Early marriages are highly condemned even by our constitution,” said the chief. Around the country other activists continue to fight another day. Lucky for this teenager there was a positive outcome thanks to community members and leaders.