Well, you never know what you are getting yourself into, until you are in.
Signing up for the Jiactivate county-county forums was not by design but I am glad I took part in this life changing campaign. The interest was built when I realized how many young people will have been empowered by the time the forums are done. I thought I would only attend one forum and by the time we were ending our session, I was craving for more and certainly wouldn’t let the opportunity pass by.
When you interact with people who have only been exposed to as much as their local town, you get to appreciate the gift of modernization and being a part of it. Most of all you yearn to help even more.
When you get to a new town, you burst with excitement and the joy of meeting and interacting with new people, but when you hear the stories from the people who live in these towns, you can almost shed tears.
Innocent men and women have religiously woken up early in the morning during election times to go and fulfill pledges they made to their leaders in the ballot boxes but these same leaders continually fail to honor their promises to their people.
At this day and age, pregnant women are still dying during child labor. Some don’t have the privilege of ever giving birth in a good health facility and for those who are “lucky” enough to give birth, end up dealing with child birth related diseases like Fistula for the rest of their lives, not to mention the stigmatization that comes with it.
Young girls getting forced into marriage, to some, is just a tale, but among the Turkana this is a norm. young girls are being forced into early marriages in what the locals deem as “dramatic acts,” but a closer look at it, is just ‘rape in disguise’. A young girl gets betrothed to an elderly man who “loved” the toddler from birth. Over the years, he continually sends gifts to her parents in the name of early dowry payments. The girl is completely unaware of her arranged marriage. When she gets to her adolescent age, she is considered ripe for child birth when her breasts first bloom. If her parents are noble enough to tell her of her future husband, they will, but she still doesn’t have the option of rejecting the man. Incase she rejects him, then a group of young men are sent to “snatch” her and carry her to her “supposed” husband’s home, where she is forced to have sex with the man. If the young girl manages to run back home, insults are hurled at her as she is chased away by the parents back to the man who slept with her without her consent.
I know people overlook this in the name of tradition, but how many stop to think of how a girl as young as 10 years old feels after being raped, because that’s exactly what it is, by a 40 year old man or even older. And as if that is not enough, she carries child and is supposed to deliver like an adult woman and not have complications. It’s even sadder to know that in this very same setting, there are leaders who silently watch and approve of these acts and perhaps have young girls as their wives too.
The Organization of African Youth launcheda Practical guide to advocacy, advocating for change for adolescents health and wellbeing toolkit, commonly known as “The Toolkit,” that came in handy especially in advocating for the rights of adolescents in regard to health matters.
Over to Bomet county. This is a county of vast athletic energy from the youth. Youth have engaged in various sports activities that have seen some compete and win various awards in the country.
It’s however sad to know that even the youth from a lovely place as this know little to nothing about public participation forums organized by the county government. Public participation forums are organized silently by people selected by leaders and the public adverts are sent like a week before the event so that it will not reach many people. The adverts always lack one of the following: the date, venue or time that the forum should take place. Surprisingly when one is lucky enough to get the venue in good time, they find a large number of attendees already present and well settled, which would make one wonder of how they got the information when everything in the advertisement was wrong.Story for a different day.
In all the four counties I visited, the song of unemployment and corruption is still being sang by many. This is funny because in almost all manifestos presented by chosen leaders, they promise to help create more job opportunities for the jobless.
One thing that I picked up that was at least positive, is that Kenyans are lovely people. Despite all the pain caused by different factors in nature and the society, Kenyans still are welcoming to strange people, and can afford to smile and share the little they have. I hope one day, I will hear an old person from one of the marginalized communities say they appreciate the Kenyan government. Meanwhile, we pray on.
Eva Jean, #OAYouth Advocate