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This story is part of World Pulse’s Campaign to End Violence Against Women. These testimonies, along with hundreds of others, were delivered to the fifty-seventh session of the Commission on the Status of Women.

World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring an end to gender-based violence. The EVAW Campaign elicits powerful content from women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as vocal grassroots leaders, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.

Learn more about the campaign.

KENYA: A Cruel Cut in the Name of Tradition

My story does not end with the ceremony. It is customary to be married soon after the cutting. I was to be married only one month after being circumcised. One morning, a man of about 60 years, married with five wives, came to my home.

I asked my mother, “Who is this?”

She said, “This is the man who wants to marry you. He has brought food, beverages, and blankets and is talking to your father now.”

I was upset, “No way am I going to marry this stranger!”

Three weeks later, the man came back. The final date for the marriage was set and a dowry agreed upon. I knew I had to run away again, and this time it had to be permanent. At sunrise I began my journey to the Maasai Mara Game Reserve. I knew there was work and perhaps someone who could help me. I walked all day until evening. When I arrived a man from my home district was willing to help me and I was given a job. I was lucky.

Back home, my mother did not wait for my father to beat her as a means of getting me to return home. She took my youngest brother (fortunately all my other siblings were old enough and had left home) and escaped to her own family. My mother’s older brother talked to my father and calmed the situation. Eventually, my father promised he would not beat my mother anymore. However, he said I was no longer his daughter and never wanted to see me again. I was cast out.
I didn’t see my father for seven years. During those years change was taking place for the better. My brothers refused to circumcise their own daughters, despite pressure from my father. In the end, even my father was persuaded to change his mind. When we met after all those years he said to me, “Come home Naing’olai. You are welcome.” He respected me for the stand I had taken.

In 2009, I founded an organization, Tareto Maa, on a personal vision and a determination to stop this barbaric practice that happened to me. I wanted to offer protection to young girls who had nowhere to go for help. I spoke with many people in my community who agreed to support the task of protecting girls from circumcision and child marriage.
In the beginning, there were seven girls who asked for shelter. Within 18 months this number had risen to 27 girls, all sheltered in private houses. Soon there were no more homes available for girls who came to ask for protection. We had to send new girls back home. I will never forget their tears and their despairing question: “Why have you helped some of the children but not me?”

By October 2010, we raised funds for a shelter, helped by a growing number of supporters, especially from Europe and North America. We opened in January 2011. Presently 96 girls are in our care. Our campaigning within the local community has also seen successes. Many families are starting to re-think the practice of circumcision and child marriage. But the fight is not yet over.

Many girls are still at risk, and there is still a long way to go. I want to offer girls the protection that I, and many others like me, needed but did not have when we were young. I believe there can be an alternate rite of passage for a girl to become a woman: a practice where each girl will benefit her family by having health and an education. Terato Maa works to make this dream a reality.

Comments

consolata's picture

Congrats Gladys

I read this with a-lot of heart ache. This is sad but thank that all is well with you since you faced everything positively. I have shared your story on face book for people to read and share. Hope it will help girls out there who are suffering like you did.
Keep up the good work.
Can also see what we are doing in our small ways to end gender Violence
www.womanshope.org

TaretoMaa's picture

Thank you so much for sharing

Thank you so much for sharing this story on Facebook. It means a great deal. Thanks also for your website. Do you have a twitter account so we could follow you there? Will definetely be looking at what you do. Many thanks again.

louiseqin's picture

Inspiring story

Thank you for sharing your story. It's very empowering, and encourage to know that you're giving those girls who are facing the same situation as you did the help you had not been given. You're a brave woman with a big heart!

TaretoMaa's picture

Thank you so much for your

Thank you so much for your kind words of encouragement and support. It means a great deal.

Monica McLeod's picture

FGM: One Voice = Change!

Dear Gladys,
You are an inspiration to women every where! How brave and determined you are. Your actions have begun a ripple of change. Saving even one other girl from the horror of FGM is a tremendous accomplishment and you have already saved many. You are a hero!

TaretoMaa's picture

I don't know what to say in

I don't know what to say in answer to your great praise; simply to say I am humbled and honoured to serve, to help and to give of my strength through what has happened to me. Thank you so much for your kind comments.

Abisinuola's picture

You are so brave,thanks for

You are so brave,thanks for taking a stand.not just for yourself,but also for countless others that you are getting to help today!

Abisinuola

euricisay's picture

Thank You for Inspiring me...

Hello Sister,

Thank you very much for inspiring through your life story. You are so brave and really an empowered woman. We may not share the same story but the context is all about woman struggle and empowerment. I would gladly share this to my friends.

All the best,
Sarrah

Noreen D.'s picture

FGM

Thank you for sharing you personal and painful experience of female cutting It's hard to believe that in this day and age, this barbaric and patricidal mutilation is still going on. By your bringing y our story to the light and letting the world know of its continuance, you are helping to end it.

Noreen

Noreen Donohue

Y's picture

I am so sorry this cruel

I am so sorry this cruel thing happened to you. I celebrate your courage in using your pain to fuel a passion to change things for others.

My mother, too, put her children in harm's way to protect herself. Women must stop shielding themselves with the bodies of their children.

Yvette

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