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ALALE, KENYA – As a young girl growing up in the Pokot tribe of Kenya, Salome was viewed as a source of wealth for her family. She is part of a culture in which goats, sheep and cows are given to parents in exchange for a daughter’s marriage to an older, established man.
The result? Marriages occur early for Pokot girls, often against their will and at the expense of their education. Pokot girls are typically denied the right to attend school past a certain, marriage-able age: between 12 and 15 years old.
As Salome and her friends approached their teenage years, the idea of leaving school to become young wives and mothers became increasingly difficult for them to face. Some had already endured the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), and were unsure of their safety with the men their parents had chosen for them.
One day, Salome and nine other girls, all from the same cluster of villages in rural Kenya, decided to take hold of their futures and run. Their destination: Kameris, a nearby Christian school that was rumored to be a place of refuge.
Over the course of the next few weeks, 20 other girls followed their lead and fled to the school. Kameris already had well over 100 students, most of whom could not pay tuition. But they took the Pokot girls in – all 30 of them.
Amos Limo, principal at Kameris, realized how desperate the girls had become if they felt their best option was to flee from their parents and the only community they had known.
“The Pokot girl-child has no right to [be in] school due to cultural and traditional practices by the community,” said Limo. “[They were] at risk at an early age.”
With the help of organizations like Tent Schools International, Kameris housed the girls and continues to educate them. Now, Salome and five other girls – Faith, Rebeccah, Josephine, Sheba and Joy – are ready for high school, while the remaining girls are in the process of finishing their elementary education.
Entering high school is a monumental milestone for the six girls who have reached this point. As their opportunities expand, their futures veer away from the track of premature marriage and motherhood, one of the biggest factors contributing to cyclical poverty for families in the developing world.
Despite the opportunities now available to the girls, family relationships have been damaged. Some parents have approached the school to take back their daughters, but instead of sending them home, Kameris offered to facilitate a reconciliation process while the girls finished school. Local churches joined the school’s efforts toward healing within the Pokot community, meeting with school staff and parents twice a year.
Limo views the process as a way of creating an environment the girls can return to when they are finished with school. He admits the the situation has been difficult. Many parents give little or no support for their daughters to continue their education.
The school hopes to raise $5,000 each year to house and educate the girls, a sum that would cover soap and other sanitary supplies, uniforms, shoes, school supplies and tuition fees for all 30 students. Your support helps keep the Pokot girls in school and on track to reach the dream of a full education and the range of opportunities it brings.