My name in Gladys Cheptoo Biwott and I am 30 years old. My parents had invested in my education. They sold all their cattle to finance my studies at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree (second upper class) in Microbiology.
Unfortunately, I have not been able to find a job ever since. I have been making trips between home in Kodongou village, Kishaunet Location, in West Pokot and Nairobi for the past six years in search of a job in vain.
I SELL BOILED EGGS AND POTATO CHIPS
Life has been difficult after the death of my father in late 2011, which left me with a sickly mother and eight younger siblings to take care of, yet I do not have a job. Without the capital to invest in a tangible business, I have been selling food, mainly boiled eggs and potato chips at Chepareria shopping centre. I make Sh100 a day.
With a severe drought and a consequent famine hitting my village, the last three years have been unbearable. Even with my degree, my challenges have not been any different from those of the illiterate women in the village.
I am not content with the way I am living, as I am unable to make the tangible impact that I have always wanted, to transform my community and influence them to shed some of the cultural practices that have been by-passed by time. Without the power and resources, I cannot influence people and instil positive change. To be sincere, I have recently been the laughing stock of the village.
Women in my village say that I am educated but I am unable to bring any change since I am suffering like them, if not more than them. This is causing me sleepless nights. In my first two years in the village, I used to counsel and mentor young boys and girls; but today, they can hardly listen to me because it is like I have failed in life. There is no way that I can pull them to aspire for success when myself, I am not successful in any way.
FGM OUTREACH ACTIVITIES
Over the years, I have been carrying outreach activities against female genital mutilation (FGM) and early child marriages. But today, not a villager can listen to me. Instead, they say that I am an uncircumcised woman and a bad example of what education can achieve. They blame me for being educated and not being able to put my life together like an educated woman would. In short, they cannot point out any mark of success in me.
The villagers say that I am jobless and useless and I have nothing to show for my education. That is part of the reason they insist that I have to undergo FGM and be married off to some old man in the village; even at 30 years of age.
This has been stressful to my sickly mother and it is harming her health. I have had enough of my village. It is for this that I have decided to run away from home, away from my village, where young, jobless graduates are seen as total failures. I am not the only unemployed graduate in my home area. There are others who are facing similar hostility.
The villagers who do not know the value of education are going round preaching that parents should not sell their cattle to take their children to university since they will still come back to languish in the village. They are now saying that education is useless and a waste of resources. It is like they do not want unemployed graduates in the village as they say that we are a bad omen.
The villagers who are saying all this are people who have never even set foot in a classroom, but they got the power to say it because even those of us who are educated cannot stand up and speak for themselves. Even with the knowledge that I have on the ability of education to transform human life, I cannot defend it, simply because I got nothing to show for it.
A MONTH SINCE I RAN AWAY FROM HOME
It is a month since I ran away from home. I am staying with a friend in upper Kabete. Life has not been easy, I have been searching for a job in vain. If life went on the way I had it all planned in my mind, I should be in a research laboratory investigating diseases and providing solutions to some of the most pressing challenges in our health systems.
Over the years, I have been hopeful that I would find a job and serve the community in a bigger capacity. Unfortunately, I have not been lucky to be hired even after applying for numerous jobs with national and county governments and private organisations. This has seen me retrogress in my personal development, even though I have all this knowledge within me. I know that a graduate in microbiology should be far placed in life. They should not look like me.
MIGHT SOUND LIKE A JOKER
To some people, I might sound more of a joker saying that I have been selling boiled eggs and chips to eke out a living yet I am a graduate. That is the far back that life has pushed me. With a Higher Education Loans Board (HELB) loan worth Sh217,000, I am not settled. Somehow a solution has to be found.
I still want to go back and work with my community to change their perceptions on the girl-child and education. Even with unemployment, education is important as it opens up the mind of an individual, the only challenge is the resources to implement the ideas of an educated mind.
With resources, I will be able to debunk the new myths and perceptions that my community has on higher education, I will be able to win the war on FGM. FGM does not define a woman, and cannot be used as a measure of womanhood. That is why I do not understand that I have to undergo FGM at 30. It is against human rights and should not be imposed on anyone.
The other form of support that can empower me in order to be able to influence change in my community would be in the form of a paid job. Without resources, I am voiceless. I am unable to get the community to listen and rally around an idea like abandoning practices such as FGM and sending more girls to school.
If I had the resources, they would be able to see the difference between me, an educated woman, and those that have not acquired education and will thus be easy for me to influence this change.
I know that I will find a way.
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