Nuria Golo fights the good fight where women are not allowed to address men. Mary Mwendwa brings us another great story and pictures from “the other Kenya”.
SHE LOOKS ORDINARY while dressed in her long clothing and head scarf, but behind this humble woman is a big driving force that would see her become enemies of many for fighting against (Female Genital Mutilation) FGM.
Born in Shauri yako village or Manyatta in Saku central district of Marsabit County, this is none other than Nuria Golo, a brave and tireless fighter for women rights in Eastern Kenya.
She is a household name within her county, making both enemies and friends because of the kind of work she does.
“It is not an easy task to fight a culture like FGM in a society that is deeply rooted into it. FGM is common here and it denies young girls many opportunities apart from the physical injuries, “She narrates.
Nuria has been recognized globally and locally for her work and she believes it is through passion and dedication she has achieved this.
Among the awards she has received is Women Inspirational Award by the Devolution Ministry among others.
She had to quit her teaching job to concentrate on helping girls; “I quit my teaching career in 2000 to start activism and fight for the rights of women and vulnerable girls in my pastoralist community.”
“My friends could not believe I was leaving employment to take on job that meant clashing with the community, especially elders,” she says.
Any woman who stands up in her community to defend rights of other women is seen as a rebel by the elders who always dictate cultural values in the community.
Nuria says, “I had taught for ten years in various primary schools within Marsabit County I realized culture was the biggest stumbling block to the empowerment, development and freedom of women and girls.”
She recalls how young girls were being forced into cut then married off-even to elderly men-by hungry parents for just wealth. This wealth is in form of livestock which is highly valued in her region. Some were pulled out of school some in some instances wives were beaten by husband’s kin in slight provocation.”
Nuria recalls how in the schools she taught many girls would enroll in nursery and drop as they progressed in higher classes.
“Many of the girls would tell me how desperate they were after FGM and could not concentrate in class because any time they would be married off.”
Nuria says in her Islamic culture women are not supposed to address men but fellow women, something she says has pulled development behind.
At the time of resigning, Nuria had faced off with several cases. She would rush to confront perpetrators of female cut, early marriages and gender violence, Nuria would travel there to confront the perpetrators.
Most of the time she was now spending rescuing girls and this became too tasking for her and she resorted to resigning from teaching.
Nuria discloses how she was a victim of the retrogressive culture.
“I was married off to an elderly man at 16, after undergoing female cut. At this time, it seemed normal since all girls were doing it,” recounts Nuria, born 1969.
She later divorced after few years and pursued further education.
She joined Kaaga High School in Meru and later, Egoji Teachers Training College where she graduated 1990 as a P2 teacher and got employed.
Nuria formed Marsabit Women Advocacy Development Organization (MWADO) as vehicle to empower women and young girls on their rights.
She says, “I wanted to stop female cut, early and forced marriage, child labor and girls to attend school and become part of decision makers.”
Something she confirms is not for the faint hearted.
It was difficult initially they were afraid to come out but with the promise of police protection, reported to her many abuse cases.
Nowadays she’s involved in educational enrollment advocacy, where she moves telling parents to take their children to school.
Nuria says her activism of approximately 20 years is bearing fruits. Enrollment for girls is better today than five years ago.
Nuria carries many hats, she is also board member of Marsabit County Education Committee where she champions education for children and construction of more schools.
Free education has helped because, initially parents could not sell thousands of livestock to pay few shillings as fees for their children.
She discloses more girls are now getting married even without being cut. “That was not so ten years ago because it was considered a taboo,” she explains.
She recalls a case in which she pushed for jailing of a circumciser and two mothers who had taken their daughters for the cut. Many people got scared following their arrest and jailing.
Nuria discloses many people still do female cut secretly and the elite fear condemning it for fear of backlash with the community.
She faces money problems hindering reaching cases that are far places. Her dream will not die, she firmly states. For where there is a will, there is a way.
The cut or mutilation of the female genital is reported by medics to result in the severance of the sensitive nerve endings which stops the free circulation of blood and oxygen in the vagina, often ending in septic shock or death.