August 01, 2017

"Our rescue centre girls are educated to be ambassadors of change to discourage early marriages and FGM"

Education is a main focus at the centre

Photo credit: Faith Ocharo

Caroline Ntere

Social worker at Grace Children Centre in Kenya

The Grace Children Centre looks after children who are orphans, who are HIV positive and girls who have been victims of cultural practices in the Maasai community.

My name is Caroline Ntere, a social worker in Grace Children Centre. It is a Christian rescue centre under a ministry called Christian in Africa which was started in 2014. 

We have 30 children - 18 girls and 12 boys - who are taken care of by a dorm mother and a dorm father. There are staff who prepare their food and do laundry for them. 

The oldest is in class eight and she is 15 years old. The kind of support we give these children is that we pay for their school fees and we give them good food.

The ones who are HIV positive, we take them to Kajiado district hospital to monitor their health. I talk to the rest of the children so that they do not discriminate the ones infected but instead play with them because they are all equal.

We have children of all kinds in our rescue centre. Some of them are orphans and they had no place to call home. 

Social worker Caroline at the centre with some of the children

Photo credit: Faith Ocharo

Or some are left with their aged grandparents, who can’t meet their daily needs because of the arid and semi-arid climate. Hence you find the children are malnourished so we take them. 

We have 17 girls who are victims of early marriages and female genital mutilation. In my community having a daughter is wealth and hence they are circumcised and - in the process of healing - a husband is organised for them.

So we try to sensitise the community and rescue these girls.

At Grace Children Centre we encourage activities such as beadwork. Since we are Maasai, the children make good necklaces and bracelets to sell to our donors, tourists and well-wishers who visit our centre.

There are seminars which empower young women against genital female mutilation. All the girls in the rescue centre attend to be informed and educated to be ambassadors of change for the Maasai community to discourage early marriages and FGM.

Children are also informed about the dangers of early marriage and FGM

Photo credit: Faith Ocharo

The number of girls in the whole of Kajiado county completing class eight has been 10% to 20% for many years. We are trying to fight that gap now with changing each girl who comes our way and has been denied a chance to go to school.

We have 13 girls aged from 11 to 16 who we have rescued in the process of circumcision and early marriage.

I believe as a social worker I will be able to get even more girls to mentor and empower them.

These young girls go through a lot of trauma and I advise them and encourage them to strive ahead and forget what happened to them previously.

Some of these traditional practices are unfair to women, since they get to be denied the same opportunities as men and cannot talk in front of elders.

Children are offered a safe place to live at Grace Rescue Centre

Photo credit: Faith Ocharo

They do not believe in expressing themselves and the role they play in the society.

I would like to inform the community to support us and the government to support us financially - or they should come and nurture the talents these children have like singing and running. 

Our country is known worldwide as one of the countries which produces the best runners. We have them in our orphanage and if they are nurtured then they will go places. 

The county government of Kajiado also needs to conduct seminars in the community to discourage early marriages and female genital mutilation in the places that they still practise it.

A female child is not an object and they should not be given away to get wealth. That tradition should cease because this child will help you and if you invest in her education then it’s the best investment.

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