Sunday, February 17, 2008
It is now clear that what started in Kenya six weeks ago as political unrest has now become a humanitarian crisis. More than 1,000 Kenyans have been killed and more than 600,000 displaced from their homes, either fleeing to Uganda or now living in "displacement" camps within Kenya.
Reports of atrocities against women and children, impending epidemics of cholera and typhoid, and a looming nationwide food crisis now make up the bulk of news out of Kenya. There are many ways that the Steamboat Springs community can be of life-saving assistance to the Kenyan people. You can give money to Doctors Without Borders or Red Cross. Both organizations are working very hard in Kenya to alleviate the suffering of displaced Kenyan families.
I work at the Tasaru Girls Rescue Centre in Narok, Kenya. The center was built in 2002 with funding from the United Nations. The center provides a safehouse for Maasai girls who have either run away from their families to escape or been rescued from female genital mutilation (FGM; also euphemistically called "female circumcision") and forced childhood marriage. Although the practices are illegal in Kenya, they are prevalent among the Maasai people, who number approximately 800,000 throughout Kenya.
Although Tasaru puts the girls in its care through secondary school - a truly remarkable achievement - the center does not have the financial resources to assist the girls with post-secondary education. The reality is that a secondary education in Kenya does little to prepare young women, in particular, with the training or skills to obtain viable employment. It is not unusual that many of the girls living at Tasaru want to return to their families and villages with jobs that can provide real and lasting social and economic benefit there.
A post-secondary education fund has been established to provide these girls with the financial assistance they need to become teachers, nurses, doctors and lawyers and return to their villages and families as role models. The current situation in Kenya will not interfere with this effort. In fact, the conditions that we are seeing right now in Kenya can be alleviated through efforts such as this. In a country such as Kenya, viable employment and the ability to care for one's family is quite literally a day-to-day struggle. By providing girls further education and training for viable employment, this funding will reduce the "seeds" of desperation that cause the kind of violent struggle now happening in parts of Kenya - one young woman and her family at a time.
Anyone interested in contributing to this fund, or with fundraising ideas, can contact me at 897-3810, email@example.com, or P.O. Box 810, Clark, CO 80428.