• Sylvia, 20, fled her home in 2009 to avoid the female genital mutilation that her father had planned in a bid to give her out for marriage.
• Isayia Banson, one of the family's neighbours, said Sylvia has been a good example to other girls in the community because she agreed to say no to FGM.
Tears of joy rolled freely down the eyes of Sylvia Keeiz Kosikil as she was reunited with her family in Ewaso Ngiro area of Narok South after 12 years of being in a rescue centre.
Sylvia, 20, fled her home in 2009 to avoid the female genital mutilation that her father had planned in a bid to give her out for marriage.
When she got wind of the plans to ‘cut’ her and marry her off to an old man, she escaped to a church where she hid for days before the faithful secretly secured a place for her at the Tasaru Girls Rescue Centre in Narok town.
“I was only 10 years old then but had learnt in church that FGM was not a good practice and it could cause harm to my body. This is what made me seek refuge in the church,” she recalled.
Sylvia said she was received well by the management of the rescue centre. They helped her settle down and promised to take her to school.
“I had never been to school before as I was spending my life grazing livestock and helping with domestic chores. My father had vowed never to take me to school,” she said of her gloomy past.
The young woman remembered how she was taken to Siana Boarding Primary School in Mara in 2010. However, being a bright girl, she did not begin in class one. She was taken straight to Standard 3.
After primary school, Sylvia joined Maasai Girls Secondary where she sat her KCSE examination this year, scoring C+ (plus)—qualifying for university admission.
“I am so excited that I have gained myself a grade that will help me join a nursing college. I have always dreamt of being a nurse and am looking forward to joining Kenya Medical Training College to undertake the nursing course,” she said.
The ever-smiling girl expressed her gratitude to Agnes Pareyio, the proprietor of Tasaru Girls’ Rescue Centre, for holding her hands throughout her primary and secondary school journey. Without her, she could not have made it, she said.
“I surely do not know where I could have been today if it were not for the rescue centre. I wonder what kind of a person I would be today. I thank God for the rescue centre that has saved many girls like me,” she said.
Sylvia’s father Musa Kosikil could not hide his joy as he embraced his child to welcome her back home after 12 years.
“I loved this girl too much and I thought the best I could give her is to let her look after my cattle, sheep and goat so that when she comes of age I would marry her off,” the old man confessed tearfully.
He, however, admitted that Sylvia had returned home a better person than he thought and promised to support her achieve her career dreams.
“You are so welcome my daughter. I receive you with my two hands and assure you I will protect you so that no harm will befall you again,” he said.
Pareyio, also chairperson of the Anti–FGM Board, said she received Sylvia when she was very young and naive. She said she was very obedient and God-fearing and helped her to mentor other girls at the rescue centre.
“We have come to reconcile the girl with her parents so that she can start her life afresh in her home. The reconciliation process has taken some time, but we are happy that the family is ready to take their daughter back,” Pareyio said.
Isayia Banson, one of the family's neighbours, said Sylvia has been a good example to other girls in the community because she agreed to say no to FGM.
Banson said the community has now learnt the value of educating girls, saying boys and girls enjoy equal rights under the law.
“This is a lesson to all the community members that exposing girls to early marriages and FGM does not build them. The best thing you can give them is education; they have equal rights with the boys,” Banson said.
Sylvia's story is an inspiration to young girls that they have a role to play in ending the retrogressive cultural practice by saying ‘No’ to FGM so that they can lead a decent life.
Two years ago, President Uhuru Kenyatta made a firm commitment to ending the female ‘cut’ by next year. The enhancement of the Prohibition of FGM Act, 2011, was a key milestone in the campaign against FGM in the country, especially in communities where the practice is still rampant.