I have been a radical, a revolutionist in Marsabit

I have been a radical, a revolutionist in Marsabit

What you need to know:

  • Nuriah Golloh has been a prominent voice in the fight for more intersectional feminism in Marsabit.
  • In the 20 years of activism and human rights advocacy, she has weathered storms to emerge an icon and one of the toughest women in the region.
  • Her undeniable passion for justice, pro-gender equality and women rights agenda was inspired by her harrowing experience when she was married off at the age of 16.

For decades, women in Marsabit County and other arid and semi-arid areas have been fighting for more representation and equality in an all-pervasive patriarchal society.

The fight has not been easy and to date, women and girls are still not equally represented in areas such as politics and governance.

However, considerable progress has been made through the unwavering grit of a few women and men, who have chosen to put their lives on the line to ensure better profiles for women’s representation and empowerment.

Nuriah Golloh, 54, a former primary school teacher, has been a prominent voice in the fight for more intersectional feminism after she resolved to wade through the murky waters of male chauvinism in the region. 

Toughest women

Despite the odds stacked against her, in the 20 years of activism and human rights advocacy, she has weathered all the storms to emerge as an icon and one of the toughest women in the region.

In an interview with the Nation at her house last Thursday, Ms Golloh said: “I believe I have been a radical and a revolutionist in this part of the world as you may put it, and I will continue to be one for the benefit of our people.”

She expressed delight at the fact that she was able to make inroads for transformation that has broken boundaries and yielded the liberty that women and girls enjoy in the region today. 

Ms Golloh’s undeniable passion for justice, pro-gender equality and women rights agenda was inspired by her harrowing life experience when she was married off at the age of 16.

Constant criticism

Her woes began while she was still at Class Four, when she got betrothed to a man she never loved, as the cultural practices of the region have always dictated for ages.

She detailed that after grappling with massive energy and constant criticism directed at her for being so naïve to nurse the first boy she gave birth to, she decided to call it quits.

She later resolved to have herself specialize in teaching as a career, a journey that saw her offer voluntary services as untrained primary teacher from 1980 till 1990  when she joined Egoji Teachers Training College to train as a teacher.

After her graduation from in 1993, she got employed and taught in various primary schools in Marsabit.

Abject poverty

During her ten-year teaching career, she felt there was still a huge gap to be closed, when she came face to face with inequality, hopelessness, abject poverty and marginalisation among the pupils she handled.

She resigned in 2000 and founded Marsabit Women Advocacy and Development Organization (Mwado), a non-profit civil society organisation.

Because of women’s historic marginalisation and lack of presence in formal governance and the structural barriers they faced in attaining education, she entered leadership position by forming Mwado, as a means of finding alternative ways to forge the changes and obtain the desired responses and results.

Female education

Through her CSO, she has championed the cause of equality, raised her voice for others in the fight against prejudice, forced child marriage, female genital mutilation and marginalisation, even at a time when no woman was expected to do that for the fear of extradition.

Thanks to Mwado huge leaps for female education and advocacy have been made, with five other women and four men joining her in the fight against the age-old injustices perpetrated against girls and women.

Several defilement, gender-based violence, female genital mutilation, and early child marriage cases have been brought to the fore, the offenders brought to book, girls rescued and taken to rescue centres.

Gainful employment

More than 15 women groups have been empowered socio-economically through the funding of Mwado, scores of girls got their way in colleges and universities, while others securing gainful employment in various sectors.

She also derives fulfilment at the fact that there are now women MCAs in the county assembly and various senior leadership positions in the county government.

"My greatest concern is not even about feminism per se, it's about equality, humanity and empathy for everyone in the society," Ms Golloh.

Ms Golloh has not been without controversies: She has faced widespread criticism of ‘promoting marriage break ups’ by encouraging women and girls to dishonour men and eroding the society's moral fabrics.

Wife batterers

For instance, a mob nearly lynched her when she, in the company of the county children’s department coordinator, went to rescue a young girl who was married off by her parents.

Many are the times, she felt like throwing in the towel due to lack of cooperation from the law enforcement agencies and the Judiciary - they are sometimes bribed to let go of defilers, wife batterers or men who marry young girls.

Additionally, lack of rescue centres has been the greatest deterrence in the salvage mission of girls snatched from the jaws of FGM, early child marriage, defilement or parental negligence.

She has undertaken extensive and uncounted awareness campaigns on the retrogressive cultural practices on the local radio stations.

On the flipside, there have been more gains to celebrate in Ms Golloh’s human rights advocacy life.

On December 12, 2017, she was awarded a Head of State Commendation (HSC) by President Uhuru Kenyatta for her selfless struggles for humanity.

MP Saku Constituency

Between 2015 and 2017, she was nominated as the county Shujaa and represented her people during the Mashujaa Day celebration at the national level.

She also got feted with an Inspiration Women Award by the Ministry of Gender in 2015 and currently serves in the National Council for Children Services Board as a member.

She ran for the Saku Constituency Member of Parliament seat in the last general election and was trounced by Hon Raso Dido.

Ms Golloh has two daughters, a Form One and  a Fourth Year student of Community Development, whom she maintains, have always looked up to her as their role model.

She sits at the Court Users Committee and County Education Board meetings to represent her people.