An image of a young girl (Lilian) who ran away from home to escape FGM and child marriage, with a fiercely determined look on her face. Courtesy of Mekuno Project partner WorldVision.

Stories of Hope

The voices and experiences of survivors of FGM and child marriage, alongside girls at risk of these violences, are at the center of all that we do at Mekuno. Here, we share their inspiring stories, as well as the stories of their fierce allies and supporters.

Endurance to Empowerment - Survivors Speak:

Veronica (13), Vivian (16), Rovina (13), Irene (16).

“In the mountains of Kenya, we met four brave girls who adamantly wanted to tell us their stories of child marriage — in hopes of helping other young girls escape the same fate.”

Four girls between the ages of 13 and 16 telling their stories in bright yellow shirts, indicative of hope. Courtesy of Mekuno Project partner WorldVision.

Escapees to Activists - Girls Who Found Hope Through Education:

Ester Cheebos: Clinical Program Officer, Ampath Plus, Gender Violence Lead. She is a Mekuno Project anti-FGM champion.
Ester Cheebos: Clinical Program Officer, Ampath Plus, Gender Violence Lead

“I witnessed my mother enduring a life of domestic violence, my sister being forced into marriage, and I saw my girlfriends lose their childhood overnight. I know my purpose is to create a safe environment for all women, while at the same time sensitizing men as to why we need them to join the fight against FGM.” 

Daicy: Age 13. She is a Mekuno Project anti-FGM champion.
Daicy: Age 17

“My community holds traditional beliefs very dearly and girls like me are looked down upon. A majority of girls never transition from elementary school to high school. Were it not for the strictness of my Mum, I could be somebody’s wife by now.”

Community Leaders, Cultural Changemakers - Heroes for Hope:

James Lokuk: Head Teacher Morphus Primary School. He is a Mekuno Project anti-FGM champion.
James Lokuk: Head Teacher Morphus Primary School

“I am proud when I remember some of the girls like Brenda* (now a teacher), Makena* and Grace* who have been protected at Morpus, gone through their college studies, and now have a chance to make something of their lives.”

Caroline Menach: Principal St. Elizabeth Girls Secondary School She is a Mekuno Project anti-FGM champion.
Caroline Menach: Principal St. Elizabeth Girls Secondary School

“I was able to avoid child marriage and gain an education, and I am now an advocate for girls to do the same. I would not have the platform to advocate for them if I had not been spared myself. Now it is my time to help those in need.”

Carlos Kapkoikat: Administrative Chief, Baringo County. He is a Mekuno Project anti-FGM champion.
Carlos Kapkoikat: Administrative Chief, Baringo County

"To win the war against FGM and child marriage, it is important to bring the men on board. They are the ones who choose to marry circumcised girls based on the community's cultural beliefs. And when they become fathers, they will allow their girls to be cut and married off in exchange for dowry that gives them wealth."

Messania Lokuna Chepurai: Reformed Cutter. She is a Mekuno Project anti-FGM champion.
Messania Lokuna Chepurai: Reformed Cutter

Growing up, Messania walked the same path as many young girls in Kenya: she underwent female genital mutilation to make herself marriageable to a much older stranger. To escape her abusive marriage, Messania learned to cut girls in female genital mutilation rituals… thousands over 30 years. Now in her 70s, Messania Chepurai Lokuda has turned her back on the blade, fighting against the harmful practice and encouraging a younger generation to do the same.

Jonathan Kapelengura: Father. He is a Mekuno Project anti-FGM champion.
Jonathan Kapelengura: Father

Like a blind man whose eyes were opened, Jonathan Kapelengura, father of 7 girls and 1 boy, is passionate and excited to share his new viewpoint after participating in World Vision’s Kenya Big Dream project training. He is a natural leader and influencer in his community of Kamaiko village, in the remote area of North Pokot — 3 hours from the nearest town of Kapenguria. Jonathan is a highly effective change agent, fighting against the Pokot culture and mindset that sees girls as a means of gaining wealth through dowry.

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Pokot Elders: Cross-border Cooperation

Pokot Elders from Kenya and Uganda, who are custodians of culture and tradition, are committed to using their leadership skills and influence to help end FGM & child marriage in their communities. #ItTakesUsAllKE to end violence against children.

 

The trust that our partners have established in these communities through years of hard work and coalition-building have fostered these changes.  According to Moses  Chepkonga, the Kenya Big Dream program manager, it takes roughly five years to build relationships with community leaders—these custodians of culture and tradition—to then begin to transform communities.

For more inspiring Stories of Hope, check out our Mekuno Project Youtube Channel.