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Challenging Early Marriage in Kenya

Mothers’ Union members in Kenya, inspired by their faith, are challenging social practices like child marriage and the associated gender based violence, which is still common in some parts of the country

23 Nov 2018

A Mothers’ Union worker *Sarah, who is an ordained minister in a Diocese, shared how she was working within her community to prevent child marriage where possible. In her part of Kenya, child marriage can happen with girls as young as 11 years old and they are often married to men in their fifties and over as a second or third wife.  Through Mothers’ Union and the network that has been established in the community, *Sarah is notified if a marriage is likely to take place.  *She will try and talk with the family and if the wedding cannot be prevented in this way, then they will find a discreet way to get the young girl to safety and the care of the government. After a girl is brought to safety, the government will start working with the family. The family is not informed that *Sarah has helped to get the girl protected and she would be at risk if her involvement was discovered. 

*Lucy, a member of Mothers’ Union, was married off at the age of fourteen. Her biggest dream was to complete her education and she had to stop this when she was married. She started attending church and was warned by her family that she was going astray. *Lucy was able to complete her secondary education and theological training, overcoming many challenges. She was the first married woman in her community to go back to school to complete her education. She faced ridicule in her community, and her husband made her suffer through harassment, beatings and rape. Lucy also had to look after her young family of five as she completed her studies. She ultimately left her husband when he threatened to kill her.  Other young married women in the area have now also found the courage to attend school after marriage or leave abusive husbands. 

These women are not always able to prevent a child marriage, or stop girls being ‘cut’ before their wedding ceremonies, or being harmed or murdered due to domestic violence, and they feel a real solidarity with those affected. *Sarah and Lucy remain in their communities, providing support, fellowship and togetherness. The Church and Mothers’ Union provides care for those who are suffering and they help share each other’s burdens, as well as celebrating and sharing hope as they persevere through life together. 

There are many brave, courageous, inspiring and remarkable women like Sarah and Lucy around the world – all Mothers’ Union members - gained much from each other’s company at the event, and I left feeling richer for my time with these women. 


* Names have been changed to protect their privacy. 

Photo by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash