Why I gave up everything for disadvantaged girls
Raised up by a single mother, 26-year-old Mariam Hussein almost dropped out of school because her mother could not afford. But fortunately a good Samaritan paid her school fees and she was able to complete her studies at the North Eastern Province (NEP) Girls Secondary School in Garissa. She explains how her upbringing compelled her to work in rescuing girls in challenging backgrounds. She is currently the matron at Ummul-Kheir Girls Home in Garissa.
“I am a 26-year-old mother of one, wife and a long distance student at the Mount Kenya university, Garissa pursuing a Bachelor of Arts Degree, Education. I was born n Mombasa but schooled in Garissa. After my secondary education, I was employed as an untrained teacher at Haliman High School here in Garissa for two years. But because I wanted to work with girls, I applied for a job at WomanKind Kenya, the organisation that, with Actionaid finances the rescue centre. Fortunately I got a a chance to work as a matron, a position I hold to date. I have worked here for four years now.
There are two systems of admitting children here. One, we link up with the children’s department who refer us to a child who is facing neglect or is at threat of Female Genital Mutilation or early marriage. But if there is a case going on in regard to that child, we give time for the conclusion of the case. Once the case is settled, we take the child and take her through counseling. The other system is whereby our officers go to the grassroots and get the story from the elders or the chief. We then take the child through an interview before admitting her to the centre.
12: Number of teachers at the rescue centre
If the child is rescued, we discuss the issue with the parent., Some of them accept, although not fully. We then ask the parents for the birth certificate of the child and a committal order from the parent, noting that we are now the child’s custodians. Once the girl completes high school, we call the parents again and request them to accept them. Womankind pays for the child’s school fees from the time of rescue all the way to the university. We also ensure that the girls give back to the community.
30: Number of children admitted at the centre this year alone
What happens in most times is we rescue a child and the parent comes to the centre, trying to convince the child to go back. In some instances, the child gives in so we try to prevent it. When the girl completes her secondary education, we integrate her back to the community so that the latter does not feel like their child is gone for good. So far, we have 200 girls who have gone back to the community and their families have happily received them.
200: The current number of girls admintted at the centre currently.
They come from Thika, Garissa, Mandera, Wajir and Ijara.
Some are working, others are chiefs, police officers, nominated MCAs and activists….. We have others who have gone back to Womankind to work on the rights of the girls child. The two are Sahra Mohammed and Kaltuma Mohammed who is working with Global One, an organization working with maternal health. We first have a session with the parents to explain to them that the girls are at the centre for their own good. They visit their children once a month.
I remember a girl aged 12 who had lost her father and the mother had been inherited. The mother was the bread winner. When the mother was away, the step father would sexually assault the girl. U fortunately the girl could not report to the mother. But one day a neighbour caught the man and that is how we rescued the girl. So for the safety of the child, we have one of our staff host her during the holidays.
15years: The oldest girl at the rescue centre
The other one was the Garissa University terrorism attack. The university is just here next to us. It really affected them. Some of them could not talk for some days. We called the parents to pick them for about four weeks. But we have been counseling them since some of them are coming from clash-torn areas. We were afraid that some parents would not bring the girls back.
5 years: The youngest child at the centre