Documentary about Masai girls to screen Tuesday in Steamboat

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Mary Walker

If you go

What: “Escape: Female Genital Mutilation and Child Marriage in Kenya,” a documentary screening hosted by Mary Walker

When: 5:30 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Library Hall at Bud Werner Memorial Library

Cost: Suggested donation is $10 and a piece of used jewelry for a Christmas present for a Tasaru girl

— Mary Walker calls it a remarkable story.

It comes from a teenage girl in Kenya, who ran away on the eve of her own wedding — a forced marriage to a 45-year-old man — and found herself at the Tasaru Girls Rescue Center in Narok.

Since the Rescue Center opened eight years ago, that girl is the first one to have qualified for public university.

All 50 women at the center would have been married off at a young age — and have several children by the time they were 18 — if it weren’t for the center. They never would have been educated past the primary level.

Now, this particular girl has aspirations of becoming a doctor.

Two other girls have completed teacher’s college, and another studies accounting.

“What the rescue center is providing to these Masai girls is key,” said Walker, a North Routt County resident who spends several months a year in Kenya helping Tasaru girls transition into life after high school. “It’s the initial step in putting them into a position to pursue education and hopefully find employment in the Kenyan economy.”

Walker, who is home from Kenya until early December, will screen a documentary at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in Library Hall at Bud Werner Memorial Library that was filmed mainly at Tasaru.

Directed by New York resident Marvi Lacar, “Escape: Female Genital Mutilation and Child Marriage in Kenya,” is a 28-minute movie that depicts the context surrounding the rescue center and the challenges the girls face.

Walker said the film relies heavily on photographs, taking advantage of Lacar’s skills as a still photographer. Walker said Lacar had access to poignant scenes in the Masai bush, including one girl’s rescue at her wedding.

But despite the successes of several girls after their rescue, Walker said there are always the cases that don’t turn out so well. Some of the scenes in the film are “heavy,” she said.

Still, Walker said the film has a hopeful tone, just like the hope she finds in the faces of the women she assists.

“I’m learning a lot about resilience and how to keep your head up in the face of really what can seem to be very depressing obstacles,” she said.

Walker said there is a suggested donation of $10 for the movie screening, as well as a slightly used piece of jewelry for Walker to gift to the girls when she visits them during Christmas. She said they love shiny Western jewelry that contrasts the beadwork of their native culture.

“Given the people of Steamboat’s interest in the outside world, I think we all know how lucky and fortunate we are economically, politically and socially, and I think we are not unaware about how unjust the outside world can be,” she said. She hopes the film will build on the open-mindedness of the local community.

However compelling the circumstances of the Masai women might be, Walker said it’s the individual faces and stories that encourage her and the Steamboat community’s continued efforts to support them.

“When you meet these girls in person at the rescue center, they’re very compelling,” Walker said. “They’re very striking. Those of us spent a lot of time with them, they really take you over.”

— To reach Nicole Inglis, call 871-4204 or e-mail ninglis@steamboatpilot.com

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