Kenya (MNN) — Kenyan school closures and food shortages from the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in many young girls facing early marriages.
Importance of Education
Kenyan women have a very defined role in society, especially those who live in rural areas. Joy Mueller of Kenya Hope says this role carries a great deal of responsibility.
“Their sole purpose is to be married, to raise children, and to take care of the family. In the Maasai culture, women are responsible for making the house. They take care of the animals a lot. The men are seen as the warriors, the providers, though the lion’s share of the work for providing for the home falls on the women,” she says.
Because of these defined roles, girls might not have the opportunity to receive an education. Families typically give boys preference in going to school. Though more girls have started attending school in the last two decades, their numbers dwindle in the older grades.
Mueller explains school is important for girls beyond receiving an education.
“Schools provide a level of protection for girls. If a girl is in school and doing well, that [often] protects her from the [female genital mutilation] cutting [and] from early marriage.”
Since the pandemic has shut schools down, for many girls, this protection is gone.
“Now that schools are closed, the families are resorting to their traditions. Typically, they cut [the girls], and once they’re cut, they’re ready for marriage because many of the men will not accept a girl that has not been cut. Then these girls are married. Their opportunity to going back to school is done,” Mueller says.
“It is true that we are going to see a setback in a lot of these more rural communities in Kenya. These girls that were in school and doing well no longer can go back to school because now they’ve been cut and they’ve been married off.”
Mueller explains that many of these marriages have resulted from the economic crisis and food shortages caused by the pandemic.
“The families in Kenya are facing really harsh food crisis right now with escalating prices with drought conditions. Families with girls see this as an economic boost because they receive money and cows and other things for their daughters,” she says. “There is still a bride price in these rural communities in Kenya.”
Kenya Hope has stepped in to alleviate some of these economic stresses families have been experiencing.
“We’ve been providing as the Lord has provided money. We’ve provided over 2,000 families in Kenya [with] a substantial amount of food relief each month,” Mueller says. “We are just really trusting God to grant us the grace and the funds to complete this year with giving food relief to the communities we work in.”
Help for the Hurting
You can donate to help Kenya Hope provide food for families here. Mueller also encourages prayer those in the communities the organization serves.
“Pray for our pastors and our directors and our communities because this is a huge burden. We are all so deeply grieved for the situation that these young girls are finding themselves in. Pray for the pastors as they address this very difficult subject, an issue that deals with something that has been so ingrained in their cultures.”
Header image courtesy of Annie Spratt via Unsplash