Mary Walker: A better path leads to a special Kenyan wedding
August 30, 2012
One of the first rescued Maasai girls to benefit from the Tasaru Girls School Fund is Janet Semerian Pere. Janet's uncle brought her to the rescue center when she was a young girl to protect her from a marriage to an old man that Janet's father had arranged. I've been told that throughout the first period of time that Janet was living at the rescue center and attending high school, her father came and threatened to kill her, terrorizing the other girls and forcing Janet to hide within the center.
Janet completed high school and performed well enough to gain admission to Kericho Teachers College, one of several government-sponsored teachers colleges in Kenya. At the completion of the two-year program, Janet returned to her home area near the world-famous Maasai Mara and volunteered at the primary school that she had attended as a young girl while waiting to see if she would be given a coveted government posting at a public primary school somewhere in Kenya. As luck would have it, Janet got such a contract at her very own school. She now is entering her second year of paid employment as a primary school teacher.
Janet got married in May, and I was able to attend her wedding. She married Elijah, a young pastor at one of the several churches in the area. They now live in a beautiful little house that he built before the wedding within walking distance of the school where she teaches and the church where he works. Her life now is a far, far cry from what it would have been if things had gone the way her father envisioned — and she's within throwing distance of every imaginable wild animal that inhabits the area.
Janet and Elijah's wedding was a totally different affair from the ceremony that Janet would have been an unwilling participant in if her father had gotten his way. Although attended by hundreds of traditionally dressed Maasais (along with hundreds more in "civilian" clothes), it was officiated by a Christian pastor, speaking in English, Swahili and Kimaasai, and it incorporated all of the standards of a Christian wedding. Elijah and Janet signed the marriage certificate, which then humorously was stashed away in a place of Janet's choosing for safe keeping. After the ceremony, I had the chance to greet Janet's father. More important to me, however, was that I could take the opportunity to greet, and thank, her uncle.
Mary Walker, a resident of Clark for 25 years, started as a volunteer five years ago at the Tasaru Girls Rescue Centre, which rescues Maasai girls from female genital mutilation and child marriage in Kenya. She now provides college and university assistance to several Maasai girls. Mary can be reached at email@example.com.