Lamu police rescue Form One girl from early marriage

World Vision officials and religious leaders at the home of the girl’s relative who secretly planned the early marriage in Mpeketoni.

Photo credit: Kalume Kazungu | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The 17-year-old girl from the Somali pastoralist community had been living with her siblings at her uncle's place in Mulei area after the mother fled from her father's home following a domestic squabble.
  • In what appears to be a double tragedy for the children, the uncle then secretly planned to have her married off to an older man in the area, while leaving the other children to continue with their education at a nearby school.

Lamu police officers, in coordination with global charity World Vision and religious leaders, on Wednesday rescued a Form One girl from marriage to an older man after a local teacher raised alarm over the plan.

The 17-year-old girl from the Somali pastoralist community had been living with her siblings at her uncle's place in Mulei area after the mother fled from her father's home following a domestic squabble.

In what appears to be a double tragedy for the children, the uncle then secretly planned to have her married off to an older man in the area, while leaving the other children to continue with their education at a nearby school.

Mpeketoni OCPD Harrison Njuguna confirmed the incident, saying the girl has already been rescued and is now in safe hands.

Mr Njuguna said police have already launched investigations into the matter.

"After we were informed of what transpired, we immediately moved in and rescued the girl from the intended early marriage. The girl hails from Mulei area. She's in safe hands," he said.

World Vision Lamu Area official Schollar Mghoi condemned the incident, noting that domestic squabbles between parents have many times resulted in child molestation and forced marriages.

"The girl was almost being married off to an old man by her uncle shortly after fleeing from their father's home following a domestic feud. That means her dream for an education had been cut off just like that. It's only the class seven pupil who informed her teacher.

"The teacher acted promptly by informing World Vision, religious leaders and the police of the matter. That's when we moved in and rescued the girl," said Ms Mghoi.

She said young girls, particularly in Hindi, Mpeketoni and Witu Divisions, often become victims of sexual abuse when their families are broken due domestic issues.

Mrs Mghoi said the trend is heavily weighing down on the education and the general well-being of the girl child in Lamu County.

Lamu Interfaith Peace Initiative Chairman, Ibrahim Shahibu, who also doubles as the Lamu County Executive Secretary of the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut), expressed disappointment that recent school closures had put many girls in the region at risk of early marriage.

"We expected that children will be safer at home than in school but the Covid-19 pandemic has proved totally different. Children, particularly the girls, are not really secure at home. They face dangers...The coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on the lives of girls here in Lamu. Almost 25 per cent of class eight candidates, particularly the girls, have not reported back to school so far. That means they have been married off. It's unfortunate," said Mr Shahibu.

skazungu@ke.nationmedia.com