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

Making a difference in people’s lives at home and internationally is central to who I am. I have been deeply involved in funding the building secondary schools for vulnerable girls in Kenya and took a one-year personal leave of absence from Microsoft to focus my energies on raising funds and awareness for the Kenya Child Protection and Education Project, partnering with World Vision. This project is positively affecting 17,000 children in four areas in the North Rift Valley of Kenya by providing access to quality education, building schools, deepening community advocacy for the education of the girl child, and transforming community attitudes toward early marriage and harmful cultural practices. I've held posts as the former national co-chair for the World Vision National Leadership Council for Child Protection, Board of Advisors President for the Renton/Skyway Boys & Girls Club and past founding board member of SeeYourImpact.org. Professionally, I am vice president of U.S. Education for Microsoft Corp. I lead a team responsible for the U.S. Education strategy and sales to K–12 and higher education customers across the U.S. Through partnerships, programs and technology, Microsoft plays a significant role in helping institutions and educators transform learning that makes a real impact on educational outcomes and helps students realize their full potential. I have more than 31 years of experience in high-technology software sales, marketing, business development, and partner and channel management, and at Microsoft for the past 14 years holding previous roles of Vice President, West Region SMS&P and Vice President, US Partners. I was honored with the 2014 Circle of Excellence, Platinum Club Founders award , 2006 Microsoft Most Inspirational Woman award, and in 2012 was nominated for the Anita Borg Women of Vision Social Impact Award. I live in the Seattle area and enjoy backpacking, boating, cycling, scuba diving, skiing, golf, adventure travel and, when it’s rainy outside, attending concerts and theater as well as 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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