What you need to know:
- Consolata Suguta Primary School also serves as a rescue centre for girls saved from forced early marriages and female genital mutilation.
- After receiving psychosocial support at the centre, the girls are enrolled at the primary school to continue with their studies.
- In Samburu, outdated cultural practices resurface during school holidays when the children are at home. Consolata Centre has proved crucial in housing FGM victims.
It’s a cloudy Sunday afternoon and Fr Stephen Lekasuyian, head of Suguta Catholic Parish, together with other workers are engrossed in a beehive of activities ahead of a fundraiser for the construction of dormitories at Consolata Suguta Primary School.
The church-sponsored school, which is a few kilometres from Laikipia County, also serves as a rescue centre for girls saved from forced early marriages and female genital mutilation (FGM).
Here, Fr Lekasuyian wears many hats. He is the priest at the church but during school holidays and weekends, he serves as a father and caretaker to the young girls escaping harmful cultural practices.
“This institution started in 2009 as a small rescue centre for those escaping oppressions, but we extended and opened a primary school wing. It has since been serving everyone from within and without Samburu County," says Fr Lekasuyian.
After receiving psychosocial support, the girls are enrolled at the primary school to continue with their studies.
In Samburu, outdated cultural practices resurface during school holidays when the children are at home. Consolata Centre has proved crucial in housing female genital mutilation (FGM) victims.
"The facility has been vital to the community, especially those threatened with FGM and other forms of abuse. They are later enrolled here to continue with their education; that is why we felt the need to improve infrastructure to accommodate more of them," Fr Lekasuyian adds.
Cases of school dropouts amongst young girls were rampant and this got the school board concerned, leading to the decision that all pupils become boarders.
“We felt this would protect them from the snare of child marriages and any other form of abuse out there," he says.
With the rising numbers of the pupils each year, Fr Lekasuyian notes that the school sought well-wishers for the fundraiser to help expand and improve its infrastructure.
Protect women and girls
CS for Labour and Social Protection Mr Simon Chelugui during the Sunday fundraiser.
The CS for Labour and Social Protection Mr Simon Chelugui, during the Sunday fundraiser, commended the stakeholders for their efforts and lauded the school management for offering a home to the children.
“My ministry has organised meetings with the administration to ensure existing laws and policies are implemented to protect women and girls against harmful practices,” said the CS.
Anti-FGM Chief Executive Officer Bernadette Loloju said education was key to debunking myths which shore up the outlawed practice.
"I appeal to stakeholders to ensure more children are enrolled in schools because they are the ones who will make the difference. They will not cut their own children," Loloju said.
Samburu is still grappling with a rising challenge of sheltering FGM victims and vulnerable families. It is among the hotspot counties where teenage pregnancies thrive, while others are forcefully married off at a tender age after undergoing FGM.
Seven years since the advent of devolution, unfortunately, the county still lacks adequate rescue centres. Currently, there are only two, Suguta Consolata and Samburu Girls Foundation both run by private entities.
While admitting to the lack of rescue centres, Samburu County Director of Social Services Nasieku Letipila said the administration was committed to support vulnerable families in the private centres.
“We (county government) do not have a single rescue centre at the moment, but we are working closely with the private ones,” said Ms Nasieku, noting that they have set aside funds to help them where necessary.
She told the nation.africa/gender that the county government plans to build one rescue centre to decongest the two that are currently operational.