By Obegi Malack
Following President Uhuru Kenyatta’s commitment to put an end to Female Genital Mutilation by 2022, Nancy Milanoi- FGM victim turned activist- has strongly advocated the abandonment of the retrogressive vice.
The enactment of the Prohibition of FGM Act 2011 was also a landmark in the campaign to end FGM but the vice still persists in some communities.
In Kajiado County, the number of FGM cases has drastically reduced thanks to activists like Milanoi.
Born in Kajiado West, Milanoi is the founder of Naretu Maa, a Community-Based Organization that advocates for girls’ education and fights traditional practices such as early marriages and FGM.
Milanoi says her desire to rescue girls is driven by her personal experience. She underwent FGM when she was 12 years old and was forced to get married to a 70-year-old man.
Her advocacy of girls’ rights started in 2014 in Nairobi County where she used to work. She rescued a young girl, who had just completed class eight and had been turned to a house girl.
The human rights advocate received support from well-wishers and joined Karen secondary school and later university.
She has rescued many girls in the country whose rights have been abused. She remembers an instance when she was confronted by a man armed with a panga who had been mistreating a Ugandan who was his house help.
She has supported a young girl who didn’t have fees to join college. The girl is now a student at KMTC Mwingi and is studying medicine.
‘I have partnered with many organizations including Forum for Women in Development, Democracy and Justice and Plan International Federation of Women Lawyers in advocating for rights of women and girls among others. Besides fighting for their rights, I also mentor the girls and give them free sanitary pads as well,’ she revealed.
Milanoi first faced Maasai traditional practices when she was only 8 years old. Her two lower teeth were removed as a way of initiation, a right that made her bear the pain for 30 days before she healed.
The mother of two, remembers vividly how her father planned to get her cut in 1992 in order for her to get married to an old man identified as Kirokoro. By then, she was a class 5 pupil at Olchoronyori Primary School.
Her class teacher was former Kajiado West MP Moses Sakuda and the current MP George Sunkuya her classmate.
One day after school, she met many villagers at home but she had no idea that the meeting was about her getting cut so as to get married.
She was served tea which was very rare and told that she will face the cut.
“I pleaded with my mother to spare me but she refused. I asked that I be taken to the hospital but still, they refused. I had planned to escape if they took me to hospital,” she says. They forcefully cut her in the wee hours of the morning.
Milanoi reveals that she was forcefully cut in the wee hours of the morning and that her parents stopped her from going to school, a decision she resisted.
‘I reported back to school with shukas since my school uniform had been torn during the struggle to free myself from the cut. I received a lot of backlash in school as everyone expected me to get married according to Maasai culture,’ Milanoi said.
At 13, she had no idea where to report to if her parents forcefully married her to the old man.
In April, after the closure of schools in term one, her suitor arrived at their home in Olorien and took her away.
On her first day as a married woman, she didn’t take any food. She slept in the same room with Kirokoro’s first wife and escaped in the morning after she pretended that she was going for a short call in the bushes.
‘I sought refuge at my uncle’s house but after three days, Kirokoro arrived to get me back after receiving information about my hideout,’ she said.
Milanoi added that after going back to her husband’s home, the man tried getting closer to her but she refused. The man fenced his compound to prevent another escape.
“I escaped at 2am when they were asleep and walked to Sakuda’s home,” he says.
The former MP was not home and the wife advised her to report the case to the education offices. The education officers in Ngong accommodated her for three days before summoning her parents and the old man.
Her parents were asked to ensure she reports back to school while the man was asked to respect the girl’s wish.
Her parents accepted to enroll her in school but frustrated her by refusing to provide school essentials. They treated her as a cursed woman who had gone against the community culture.
She later dropped out of school and got employed as a house help in Ngong.
After working for four years as a house help, she got married. Unfortunately, the marriage was vey abusive.
In 2002, her husband died and her in-laws planned to kick her out of her land in Rimpa. Milanoi sought help from the International Federation of Women Lawyers’ offices in Nairobi who have helped her get back her property.
Milanoi is now calling upon the government to put up a rescue centre in Kajiado West, a workshop and a hall to help in train women and youth on technical courses.