Thursday, August 16, 2007

Cultural practices affecting health of Women and Children

We are encouraged to be proud and preserve our culture and heritage as the Swahili saying goes “muacha mila ni mtumwa” (a person who ignores their culture is a slave).

I support this to the extent that human rights and values (especially women) are respected as well. Have you ever known that over 90% of the African cultures abuse women? There are some cultures in Kenya, Africa and other parts of the world that are outdated, inhuman,intimidating,immoral,unjust,discriminating and should be outlawed. There are many of these cultural practices but I will pick on one today.

A good example is the cultural practice of FGM (Female Genital Mutilation or female circumcision). Most of the communities that practice this culture do marry off their daughters at very tender ages as young as 9 years old after performing this inhuman act. This is like adding a salty substance to a wound. Governments, International bodies and Women groups have tried to lobby for the stoppage of these with very minimal success. This is very sad and leaves one wondering what level of thinking these people have, to torture young girls like this. With improved education and awareness level in African and worldwide, these practices should have been history by now.

It is sad when a parent decides to marry off a 9 year old daughter. For me a nine year old is a baby. I read in a local newspaper that a 9 years old girl rejecting her parents. The story had it that this baby was forced in a marriage by her parents. One day she lost money given by her old husband to buy milk. This scared her and she was found crying, scared to go back to her husband. She was later on rescued by some authorities and moved to another home. This is shocking but it still happening in most of our societies.

I have never imagined my daughter getting married at less than twenty years of age. What hearts do these men who sleep with such babies have? Are they really normal? We have heard of cases of men raping even 2 year olds. So for them this is a normal practice. I salute women like Nominated MP Njoki Ndungu for coming up with Sexual Offense Bill, 2006, AIC Kajiado for opening a boarding school to house rescued child brides from the Masaai community, their headmistress Priscilla Nangurai a true hero and Julie Muranya an anti FMG crusader.

These cultures are encouraged by greed from parents mainly fathers who marry off their young girls in exchange of livestock, that such communities value so much.
But it is absolutely wrong!


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