Chelimo was one of “the girls”. “The girls” being those who run away from home, walk for miles through bushes, risk falling prey to warriors or attacks from wild animals to reach ‘safe shelters’ where those at high risk of FGM and consequent early marriage go to find safety. Her father for several years objected her enrolment in school and constantly assaulted her mother every day demanding Chelimo be returned so she could be married off after FGM. This brought turmoil in his marriage and he eventually separated with his wife. For her safety and mental health, Chelimo’s mother resorted to living with her brother. This was after two suicide attempts which she thankfully survived.
This was nearly a year ago! Chelimo’s father, Lokwakou Chelement tells a different tale now as he is repentant of his actions on a fateful day that changed the course of all their lives forever. He reached out to NAWOU’s Programme Officer Merab Alosikin to inform her of his reformation; how he now believes in the value of education and is committed to supporting his daughter. He attributes this to the different interaction he had with COMBATs in Karita sub county who purposely sought him out to guide and counsel him on the dangers of FGM and early child marriage after the incidence.
Irene Chelimo (15) had been in the KatiKit Primary school shelter for 2 years without going home. She only returned during a NAWOU Tracer study to see if her father had finally come to terms with her decisions. One that day, his actions painted the hateful picture he had carried for so long. On hearing about Chelimo’s homecoming, her mother returned to show support and participate in the tracer study community meeting. Chelimo’s father however stormed the meeting, threatening to disown and kill her if she thought of resuming school. He was violent both physically and verbally, police intervention did not help. It was then the NAWOU COMBATs present intervened.
They established that the reason he was so furious and violent was because he had been planning to secretly have Chelimo married off and then forced into FGM during marriage. The COMBATs tried to placate him in the moment, reminding him of the law and Chelimo’s rights, which he knew very well, but he was adamant and extremely angry and abusive. All he cared about was the cows he was to gain as bride wealth. He left vowing to never accept her or her mother back home.
All this has changed now as Chelimo and her mother were able to return home after he had a change of heart and he is now fully supportive of her dreams of being in law enforcement one day.