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Guardian Angels Protecting Children from Abuse as COVID-19 Rages On

By Dickson Kahindi, World Vision Guest Relations Officer, Kenya

Lilian, 26, is a vibrant presenter in a popular radio station at Tiaty in Baringo County, Kenya. As a pioneer female journalist in her Pokot community, she uses her career to fight for the rights of children, especially girls who are vulnerable to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and child marriages in her home area.

Lilian, 26, champions children's rights in her community.©World Vision Photo.
Lilian, 26, champions children's rights in her community.©World Vision Photo.

 

Growing up, Lilian never dreamed of the life she has now. "As the first born girl in a family of seven children, my parents always knew that at some point, based on our culture, they would have me circumcised and married off so they could get more cattle through my dowry," she states.

Having large herds of cattle is viewed as a sign of wealth among the Pokot community that are mainly pastoralists.

As such, families are often eager to sell off their daughters to the highest bidder so as to become rich. Lilian always feared that she would suffer the same fate.

From an early age, she was allowed to go to school, where she excelled due to her love for education.

"But at the back of my mind, I knew that all this would end and I would be forced to stop learning in my teens so as to undergo FGM and get married,"says Lilian.

At the age of 12, when she was a year shy of reliving her worst nightmare, Lilian's mother came to her rescue. 

"My mum was circumcised and this caused her so much suffering. She couldn't imagine me going through the same pain. So, she sought help from a local church and took me to a boarding school that was far away from home, where I could be safe,"she says.

Thanks to her bold move, Lilian was able to complete her primary and secondary education. She emerged as the best performer in her region and proceeded to university where she graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Communications and Journalism.

Lilian then decided to come back home and use her journalism career to fight against injustices in her community.

With COVID-19 making children vulnerable to child abuse as they stay home for long due to the closure of learning institutions, Lilian has doubled her efforts in awareness creation so as to save as many children as possible.

Through the support of World Vision's Gender Equality and Women Empowerment project, which is funded by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Kenya, Lilian has received extensive training on children's rights and how to advocate against FGM, child marriages and other types of violence that children face.

From left, Irene Kibon Project Officer CRIFSUP Project Nakuru County, Catherine Timbomei, UNFPA Country Representative Dr. Ademola Olajide, WVK Associate Director, Protection & Education Anne Waichinga and Loice Alix Program Associate UNFPA.
World Vision & UNFPA are mentoring young people to become children's rights champions in Kenya.
Photo From left: Irene Kibon (World Vision), Catherine Timbomei (World Vision), Dr. Demola Olajide (UNFPA Kenya Country Representative), Anne Waichinga (World Vision) and Loice Alix (UNFPA) during a recent meeting held in Baringo County, Kenya.

 

Lilian has gone ahead to pass the knowledge to other men and women who have since joined her on the child protection journey.

As a group, they constantly check on children in the community and report any cases of abuse to the relevant authorities such as the police, child protection officers and area chiefs.

Catherine Timbomei, World Vision Regional Manager pays a courtesy call to  George Natembeya the Rift Valley Regional Commissioner. He is incharge of the police force that plays a key role in enforcing child protection laws. ©World Vision Photo/Dickson Kahindi.
Catherine Timbomei, World Vision Regional Manager pays a courtesy call to George Natembeya, the Rift Valley Regional Commissioner. He is incharge of the police force that plays a key role in enforcing child protection laws in Baringo and other Counties in the region. ©World Vision Photo/Dickson Kahindi. 

 

This has enabled Lilian to rescue many girls and give them hope to learn and pursue their life dreams.

"I fight for the rights of the children through the radio. Together with my group, we also sensitise the community on what the law says about FGM and the repercussions of subjecting children to the act," she says.

Lilian notes that her intention is to become the voice of the voiceless children being abused in the society.

Following in her footsteps, is 24-year-old Kenneth who is also rallying men in Tiaty to abandon harmful cultural practices and be the protectors of girls and women.

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Kenneth, 24 is rallying men in Tiaty to abandon harmful cultural practices and be the protectors of girls and women. ©World Vision Photo.

 

After participating in a sensitisation forum organised by World Vision and UNFPA in Kenya, he decided to become an anti-FGM champion.

"My take home message from the training was that we should play our part as men to ensure that we end FGM in the next ten years by all means possible," he says

Kenneth with his group of five men that he mentored, have been educating their peers on the detrimental effects of FGM on women and girls so as to dissuade them from embracing the practice.