Olpusimoru, where men marry off their underage sisters - Daily Nation

Alarm raised over men in Narok who marry off underage sisters

Sunday June 17 2018

Pastor Stella Kerema

Pastor Stella Kerema and her husband outside their church in Narok. The couple have been helping to rescue underage girls who are being sold off by their elder brothers with impunity. PHOTO | BENSON MATHEKA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By BENSON MATHEKA
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Welcome to Olpusimoru in Narok County where brothers marry off their underage sisters with impunity.

And no one here dares to challenge them, even their parents who hold dear to their community’s centuries-old traditions.

To the men, a girl is property they can dispose off at will for a few cows.

So feared are these young men that local activists and administrators, from whom the girls seek refuge to escape being forcefully married to men as old as their grandparents, are worried about their lives.

STOP TREND

But to Pastor Stella Kerema and her husband, this trend has to stop.

Stella is a concerned about the future of the girls in Olpusimoru.

“If there is anyone who cares about the girl child, this is the place to come and fight hard to stop this [retrogressive] culture,” she says.

She has managed to rescue four underage girls who sought refuge at the church where she ministers with her husband.

Stella’s efforts have not been supported by any government agency, children support organisation or even the local administration.

CALL FOR HELP

On June 6, 2017, she called Childline Kenya hotline 116 to report that a 13-year-old girl who had scored 270 marks in her KCPE exam was being married off by her elder brother to an old man.

She would not reveal the name of the man involved for fear of her life.

Stella says the man had mobilised other men to storm her house when the girl sought refuge there.

According to a report by Childline Kenya dated June 6, 2017, the parents of the girl are elderly and were living in Mazelek, Tanzania when the brother planned to marry off his sister.

“The father is an elderly man and left his wealth to his sons, and the brothers arranged a marriage for her to an elderly man named Julius Lolgeso from Nadoshoge, Tanzania,” the report states.

SCHOOL FEES

When Stella’s husband enquired why the parents were not taking their daughter to secondary school, they alleged not to have gotten a school for her. Stella and her husband went looking for a high school for the girl, but the parents declined to pay the fees required.

When the father was asked about it, he said though he was willing to pay school fees for his daughter but his sons did not like the school.

Determined to rescue the girl, Stella found another school for her but again, her parents declined to pay fees, insisting that they did not have money unless they sold their cows.

They pleaded with the school to grant them a week but the brothers declined to pay. Instead, the brother insisted that the young girl be married.

They had indicated earlier that they would take the girl to Tanzania and have her repeat Class Six and that the girl had agreed to it, only to realise they had arranged to give her away to a man who would marry her.

RAN AWAY

The girl ran away to Stella's place yet again, and, this time, Stella and her husband had to hide her in a place only known to them, inviting the wrath of the brothers.

The girl’s brothers stormed her house ransacking everywhere looking for their sister but to no avail. Frustrate, they began giving threats to the couple who rescued the girl.

Stella had reported this matter earlier at Olpusimoru Police Station and the officers summoned the girl’s brother and father but they did not turn up.

Stella said the police did not give her an OB number for the report she made but had told her that she could get it whenever she needed it.

'STOLEN'

What is interesting is that the girl’s brother went to the police station to report that some people had stolen his sister.

Childline Kenya report states that it is unclear how the case ended.

Stella says although Childline Kenya promised to get back to her urgently and link her with the Narok children's officer, she got no help.

According to Martha Keya, Childline Kenya executive director, Stella was referred to Narok children’s office for assistance.

“No one came to support me. I had to make sure the girl was enrolled to a secondary school. She and other four girls who underwent similar tribulations are safe in a school,” she said.

However, she would not reveal the name of the school because of the girls’ safety.

She is appealing to well-wishers to assist as many girls suffering similar predicaments.