Muslim man rejects prevailing culture in favor of daughter's future.
There is a place just inland from the coast of Kenya called Duruma land. It's been said of Duruma that it is among the peoples which Kenya has all but forgotten about. The Duruma tribe can be found scattered amongst some of the most dry and arid lands in all of Kenya. Much of the housing is still constructed with traditional materials such as sticks, mud, and covered with thatch.
The people are spread throughout several square miles of the African bush, connected to one another by a spiderweb of dirt roads and footpaths that can only be navigated by the locals. Duruma land is not a place you just happen upon or find yourself driving through because you took a wrong turn. It's a destination place and everyone knows when there is a visitor/foreigner approaching from miles away. If no one stops you it's only because village elders have allowed you to approach and remain on their land.
Religiously the people are comprised historically of African animistic religion and are syncretically Islamic. They are a part of the inland coastal strip which has traded with international traders for centuries so their interactions with foreigners has historical precedence.
Recently I found myself as a guest attending a community stakeholder meeting deep in Duruma land as a guest of a Pastor friend of mine who heads up an NGO- Tumaini International Trust. Tumaini (means 'hope' in Swahili) is deeply involved with helping to find solutions to the HIV/AIDS epidemic responsible for a whole generation of orphans. The stakeholders meeting of around 150 adults comprised of tribal elders, teachers, parents, and opinion leaders were all assembled at a local school to discuss the cultural issues and barriers facing their children's futures and education. In Kenya education is seen as THE way forward and really is the only pathway for upward mobility.
Tumaini was asked to attend the stakeholder meeting due to their work with AIDS orphans with child sponsorship, medical care and education. I was told one of the main issues facing this poor community was the fact that although most young girls start school, very few of them ever finish. When I inquired as to why I was told that due to the status of girls within the Duruma tribe and the practice of dowry most of the girls are sold (given away in marriage) as third or fourth wives for dowry due to the level of abject poverty when they are 12 & 13 years old. As I inquired further it was revealed that the protection and provision which supposedly comes through marriage is just a rouse, they really are being used by the older man as prostitutes to provide an additional income or even resold to be used as child prostitutes in the big cities.
So there I was in this stakeholders meeting being conducted in a mother tongue I obviously couldn't understand, when all of a sudden an older man stands up and begins to talk. I could feel the tone of the meeting suddenly change as this man shared with authority and conviction about something which was very important to him. I wondered if he was an 'older man' with third and fourth wives? I also wondered if selling daughters for dowry was something being challenged by the stakeholders? Or if the 'older man' was the one challenging everyone else in the meeting about this issue or perhaps it was something entirely different? I had no way knowing until the meeting was over and I could converse with my liaison which brought me to the meeting.
No sooner was I musing on such thoughts when my Pastor friend William Maweu-director of Tumaini- shoots up out of his seat and begins to address the stakeholders and take control of the meeting. At this point I have no idea what is transpiring but by Gods Spirit I couldn't help but know I was witnessing a sovereign breaking in of God's kingdom. Sure enough after the 3 hour meeting of community stakeholders, elders, and opinion leaders disbursed and lunch was taken we were back in the car where I was able to get the download on what happened in the meeting.
As it turned out the purpose of the stakeholder meeting was to discuss the issue of how to keep the girls in school (as if it was some other reason besides the cultural practices). Some of the thinking by the teachers, NGO's, and missionary workers was to build a dorm for the girls and provide a meal program in order to relieve the families from some of the economic burden of another mouth to feed, and since she is 'away' at school the families will be less inclined to sell their daughters for economic gain. This line of thinking must somehow be thought of by the parents and the community and must be an initiative they want in order for NGO's to come alongside and help, otherwise these 'do gooder' projects are done and not utilized.
For example World Vision dug some wells without community approval and no one uses them because they said that is 'World Vision water', it's not ours. Communities just continue to drink the dirty water and die of diseases because they are not convinced their problem is due to unclean water. A learning curve I'm told World Vision worked through long ago.
So as the 'older man' stood up to share, I came to find out he was a Muslim man who's family has practiced such things as selling off daughters for generations, but he is one who will not do this to his daughters. I was told he went on to share his convictions about his daughters and their whole community meeting shifted on this man's willingness to stand up for the future of his daughters and now some in the community is desiring to build the dorm room for their daughters.
Although the entire community did not suddenly make an about face that day it was a watershed moment. I was told that not only were many persuaded by this man's thinking but there were many who felt the same way and now have come out together as a coalition whereby the dorm project is just a matter of time and logistics now. What a privilege it was to witness God at work in such a profound way in a seemingly forgotten place.
The mystery of Godliness is great. Please pray for the Duruma community and it's girls, that they will not have to be trafficked for just a couple of goats!