One girl’s story: “I want to succeed so I can help those I left behind”

I continue to be incredibly moved by the courage and bravery of the girls who refuse to undergo genital mutilation in Pokot.  The story below is about one of these girls, and how her life is transforming at St. Elizabeth Girls Secondary School.  In the telling of this story, I hope it brings you a deeper understanding of the cultural forces around FGM, the power of hope, and the immense importance of access to quality education in transforming a life.  Yet, for as much as this story is about one life transformed forever, it is equally about the greater miracle of those transforming, transforming others and quite literally being an integral part of the solution for cultural change that has now taken hold in Kenya.

Justus Koech works for World Vision in Kenya and has just sent this story about Emily.  I hope it moves you as it has me.

Emily Finds Freedom From FGM at St Elizabeth School, Morpus Rescue Center

North Rift Child Protection Through Education Project – Dec 2012

By Justus Koech

The tone from her mother was firm and clear. “You have no place to live if you are not circumcised!”  Emily Chepingat’s parents from Poroswa village in Pokot are staunch believers in female genital mutilation (FGM).  It was the season for circumcision, usually the December holiday. FGM is usually done with celebration full of drinking and eating. Emily’s parents had been going from home to home enjoying the feasts as other girls get circumcised. Finally the mother decided it was time she hosted a celebration in her home as she demanded Emily get the cut. “ She said it is time I hosted people to my home too for this celebration, ‘why am I only going to other homes?!’- she declared” explained Emily .

In traditional Pokot culture, girls are only good for dowry. FGM is the process by which girls are released into the ‘marriage market’  as it were. The suitor with the highest number of goats and cows, no matter the age, would get the girl.

When Emily resisted the idea, she was warned that she had no place to live. “You cannot rebel against us. Forget about education, that is no business for girls” she was told.  This is the story of nearly all the rescued girls in St Elizabeth Girls secondary and Morpus primary schools.  For Ruth Chepchumba, another rescued girl, the message could not be blunter.  She was told “we need  you married off for cows to educate your younger brothers.”  In other words her value is only dowry and nothing else. This is what girls in Pokot are up against, a future with virtually no hope. A future they have no say in.

Emily at St. Elizabeth Girls Secondary School

Emily at St. Elizabeth Girls Secondary School

Fortunately, Emily had the resolve to run away to escape FGM this cycle. One night she took off.  After 2 days of running and evading capture by pretending that she had been sent to a relative in another village, she finally got to Morpus Rescue Center and primary School.  This is where St Elizabeth Girls Secondary School is.  She was welcomed with two arms by the ever helpful head Teacher of Morpus Primary School, Mr. James Lokuk.  That was in 2010. Emily now 17 years and safe from FGM completed primary school and had no worry about her secondary education thanks to St Elizabeth School built by World Vision, through US donors.  She transitioned to grade 9 this year.

Emily now enjoys consistent schooling unlike before at home when she went on and off. “At home I was not allowed to school fully. Because I was the second born in a polygamous home, I was often asked to stay home to take care of my younger siblings. But boys were allowed to school” she said.  But now she has the best schooling environment she could ever imagine. Her dream is to become an electrical technician. She is thankful to WV donors for giving them a chance to further their education to secondary school.  Emily like most rescued girls want to succeed in life and eventually go back to their villages to advocate for other girls who are bound by the oppressive culture of FGM. “I want to succeed so I can help those I left behind, by advocating for their education” she explained.

About margoday

I have been at Microsoft for 10 years and am currently on sabbatical and personal leave for a year. I am using this time to focus my passion and energy on raising funds and awareness for the Kenya Vulnerable Girls Education Project and Child Protection, partnering with World Vision. The education project will positively affect many hundreds of girls in 5-7 areas in the Western Rift Valley of Kenya by building schools and deepening community advocacy for the education of the girl child. World Vision’s Child Protection initiative will protect over 50,000 children from exploitation as child laborers or in the sex trade. I stepped away from my responsibilities as Vice President, West Region for Small and Midmarket Solutions and Partners (SMS&P) in the US after 5 years in September, 2011. In this role, I was responsible for the marketing and sale of Microsoft commercial products and services to corporate account and medium-sized business customers in the Western United States. In addition, I was responsible for ensuring the overall health of the Microsoft partner ecosystem, as well as deepening managed partner relationships in the region. I have been in the technology field for a long time, having more than 27 years of experience in high technology software sales, marketing, business development and partner/channel management. (I joke to many that I started working when I was two years old :-)). In my previous role at Microsoft, I served as Vice President of the U.S. Partner Group for five years, where I was responsible for partner strategy and program execution for Microsoft’s US partner ecosystem, managing the largest national System Integrators, ISVs, Distributors and Large Account Resellers. During my tenure I was recognized by CRN and VARBusiness as the #7 channel executive in the industry and was a frequent keynote speaker at industry channel conferences. Before joining Microsoft in 2001, I was Executive Vice President at SoftQuad Software, Ltd., and Vice President and Managing Director of Go2Net. I also spent seven years at Lotus Development Corporation in senior positions in the North American SMB Sales, Enterprise Sales, Field Marketing, and Business Partner Sales organizations. Making a difference in people’s lives is so important to me. I am a member of the Board of Advisors for the Renton/Skyway Boys and Girls Club (former board President), a Founding Board Member of SeeYourImpact (www.seeyourimpact.org) and current co-chair of the World Vision National Leadership Council for Child Protection. I am partnering with WorldVision to address issues related to girls’ education and child protection, recently completing construction of the St. Elizabeth's Secondary School for Girls in West Pokot, Kenya. I have been honored for my work on behalf of women at Microsoft, earning its 2006 Most Inspirational Woman award. I live in the Seattle, WA area and love being outdoors. I enjoys backpacking, boating, cycling, scuba diving, skiing, golf, adventure travel and, when it’s rainy outside, attending concerts and theater in addition to enjoying a great glass of wine.
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5 Responses to One girl’s story: “I want to succeed so I can help those I left behind”

  1. Kim Tubbs-Herron says:

    Margo–this is Kim Tubbs-Herron! I was sitting watching football this Sunday evening and clicked on your note. You continue, even from a far, to inspire me. I have always loved your passion and drive. I love your leadership and focus on the girls of Kenya–I know God will continue to bless you. Much love, heath and happiness in 2013.

  2. Hi Margo,
    Thanks so much for your continued work on behalf of these girls, and girls everywhere really. It is so important and very inspiring to see what can be accomplished with faith, hard work and perseverance–Keep up the great work in 2013!

  3. Marie Chichester says:

    What a beautiful story of hope and transformation. Go Margo…go WOV…go Emily…God is working through all of you, you are inspiring and give the rest of us something to strive for. Thank you!

  4. Margo so excited to hear about what you are working on, the health and growth of girls at all levels and around the world is so important, thanks for all you do! Much success in 2013 and please let us know how we can help and support your efforts. deb

  5. Njoroge Waweru says:

    What a courage! Thats so good of you. I am sure you have touched many.

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