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Royal visit: Queen Matilde of Belgium wades into age old Maasai culture early marriages and FGM

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Belgian Queen Matilde with excited school children at Furaha Centre in Kalobeyei Village, Kakuma Refugee Camp, Turkana County during her recent visit-Photo By Frank Dejongh

18-year-old Purity Kesuma fits the aphorism “pigs will fly” meaning that the seemingly impossible phenomena can come to pass in a life time.

Born into the conservative Maasai culture that treats women and girls as objects without a voice, Kesuma has not only shrugged off early marriage and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) so prevalent in her community, she has acquired wings and, like the popular aphorism,  flown to an unlikely audience with a European queen.

Thanks to the unique circumstances surrounding her life, wiry and shy Kesuma had the exceptional privilege of narrating to visiting Queen Mathilde of Belgium and Crown Princess Elizabeth her tottery walk from an igloo shaped abode at a Maasai Manyata in Mailwa Village, Kajiado County to Ilsibil Secondary School where she is a candidate in this year’s Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE).

“I am the youngest of five girls from three mothers married to my mother and the only one to set foot in a secondary school,” she recounted after a meeting with the queen who was on a tour of Kenya recently in a mission to raise awareness on education for vulnerable groups and child protection issues. She had been to in her capacity as honorary president of UNICEF, Belgium.  She had been to Niger, Tanzania, Senegal, Haiti, Ethiopia, Liberia and Laos on a similar mission.

She says: “The eminent visitors could not believe that the teenager before them who now aspires to be a doctor had escaped from an arranged child marriage to a man many years her senior when she was only 14 and had narrowly dodged the knife that had genitally mutilated her four older sisters in an age old rite of passage to womanhood.

Her story of a bare knuckled struggle to realize her dreams against all the odds stunned the royal duo by its sheer luridness.

“I returned home after sitting the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) at Mailwa Primary School and effervescent with the hope of proceeding to secondary school the following year courtesy of my 295 points only to be rudely confronted by the possibility of missing out for lack of school fees. I was devastated to the bone when calling letters arrived from Ilsibil and Esolenge Secondary schools.  My father told me to my face to forget further education. Reason?  No school fees.

Purity talks to Belgian queen Matilde and Crown Princess Elizabeth at Ilsibil Girls’ Secondary School, Kajiado County– Photo by Sarah Ooko

“Downhearted and lost for what to do, I left home and went to stay with a married step sister with a toddler to assist her with maternity chores, hoping that school fees would somehow come my way. I had hardly settled down when information came that I was wanted back home.

Also Read Sahara Group Reiterates Support For The Arts At Bling Lagosians Private Screening

“Still, no fees, but rumours were rife in the village that my father intended to marry me away to a man I had never met. Arrangements had been made to have me circumcised before I could meet my suitor. I hid from home and ran away to my former school the moment I confirmed the rumour from my father whose word was final.

“My former head teacher received me with love. She asked me to take courage and promised to give me protection. She contacted World Vision and a team came over to talk to me. The gesture culminated in my joining Form one at Ilbisil Girls’ Secondary School.  World Vision offered to pay my school fees and here I am today in Form Four and a 2019 KCSE candidate.
Tears jump to purity’s eyes as images of the flight from home cascade through her mind. She blinks fast and uses the edge of her palm to wipe off the tears. She recalls how a moved Queen Mathilde wondered if her parents had accepted her back into the family.

“My father had disowned me, but had a change of mind after my former Head teacher pleaded with him to forgive me. I returned home and my father gave me his blessings. A father’s blessings are crucial in Maasai culture.

She says Queen Mathilde held her hand with the words “Your courage and determination will take you far. Prepare well for your examinations. You will hear from me through UNICEF”.
World Vision program Manager In charge of Osiligi area Ms Tabitha Mwangi Meoli says Queen Mathilde and Crown Prince Elizabeth engaged in community dialogues with Maasai men and women to discuss possible interventions and facilitation to trigger change in harmful practices such as FGM and early marriage affecting girls’ education.

She says through facilitation by UNICEF, New Vision organizes alternative rites of passage and persuades fathers to bless uncut girls considered a cursed lot by society.

“The curse is real and can affect uncut girls in many forms if reprieve from fathers and elders is not sought and given.   We also talk to Morans to accept uncut girls for wives and enlighten them on the disadvantages of FGM,” says Ms Meoli.

The Queen and the crown princess who were in the country for three days also visited Furaha Centre that offers art therapy activities at the Kakuma refugee Camp in Turkana County, the Kalobeyei Integrated settlement in northern Kenya where children and adolescents build learning and education skills and the UNICEF supported Jitegemee Livelihood Project that empowers young mothers through access to education and skills development.

Also in her itinerary was the AMREF Dagoretti Child Protection and Development Centre that rescues and liberates children living in vulnerable situations, The ACAKORO football academy in Nairobi’s Korogocho slum that develops football talent in deserving children while providing them with school fees and meals.

Queen Mathilde is the wife to the reigning King Philippe of Belgium. The couple has four children of whom Crown Princess Elizabeth is the eldest. Her assistance to the king in carrying out  state functions include private and state visits abroad and audiences with representatives of various groups.

Besides her role as UNICEF ambassador for Belgium, she   is the Honorary President of the Queen Mathilde Fund that endeavours to assist the weakest members of society with focus on child poverty and the position of women in society.

 

Credit Standard Media

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NGOs - SDGs

IWD 2021: Temi Marcella Awogboro Choosing To Challenge Gender Bias and Inequality

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Temi Marcella Awogboro, Investor, Board Director & Founding Executive Director, Evercare (Source: Temi Marcella Awogboro)

IWD 2021: As an investor in the healthcare industry, I have witnessed first hand how women have stood at the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis, as health care workers, caregivers, innovators and as some of the most exemplary and effective leaders in combating the pandemic. It is no coincidence that the countries most successful in stemming the tide of the COVID-19 pandemic and responding to its health and broader socio-economic impacts, have been led by women.

However, the COVID-19 crisis has sadly highlighted both the centrality of the contributions of women, as well as the disproportionate burdens that they carry and the inadequate representation of women at the highest levels of decision making. Furthermore, in addition to persistent pre-existing social and systemic barriers to women’s participation and leadership, new barriers have emerged in the form of increased domestic violence, unpaid care duties, unemployment and poverty.

I strongly believe the unique experiences and perspectives of women are critical in the formulation of decisions, policies and laws that work  for all. In light of this, I choose to continue to challenge inequality, subvert the status quo, be courageous in calling out bias,and questioning stereotypes, and to mobilize capital to forge an inclusive world. IWD 2021 #ChooseToChallenge

 

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IWD 2021: Oyetola Odyemi on Choosing To Challenge Gender Bias and Inequality

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Oyetola Oduyemi, Director, Public Affairs (Africa Region) The END Fund (Source: Oyetola Oduyemi)

IWD 2021: I am glad to lend my voice to this celebration of women everywhere, on this auspicious occasion of the annual International Women’s Day commemoration, 2021. I celebrate both women winning, and women struggling but pushing through. I identify with women that have borne the brunt of the ongoing pandemic – combining tough work deadlines with home-schooling children and family members. I empathize with women living in an inequitable world, and dealing with bias and exclusion, in different forms and with various nuances. We will keep hope alive and continue to work on co-creating a future full of promise for all, regardless of gender, circumstances of birth, colour of skin, or any other division.

As we commemorate this day IWD 2021 also, please remember that women are disproportionately affected by neglected tropical diseases – physically, socially, and economically. Women are biologically vulnerable, physically impacted and socially subjugated as a result of these neglected diseases; and nowhere is this truer than in Africa. I urge us all to apply gender equity lens, even as we join hands to tackle these neglected diseases.

Sustainable Development Goal 3.3 is underpinned by the principle of leaving no one behind; and SDG 5 calls for not only an end to discrimination against women everywhere, but also empowerment of all women, regardless of their socio-economic status. Together, we can and indeed should collaborate, to bring these goals to life. As we work to build back better in a post-COVID world, strengthening universal health systems, renewing commitments and galvanizing action to promote healthy lives and wellbeing for all, let us also work to end neglected tropical diseases as public health concerns. Specifically, let’s #choosetochallenge the status quo of women’s inordinate vulnerability to these diseases, and choose instead to protect women’s rights to freedom from neglected tropical diseases, and need to enjoy good health.

I choose to raise my hand and voice in this call to action for protecting women from the suffering caused by neglected diseases. I choose to raise my hand to help forge an inclusive world, free of neglected tropical diseases. As it is said, ‘from challenge comes change. So, let’s all #choosetochallenge.

 

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Sahara Group Leverages Transformative Innovation For Sustainable Performance

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Sahara Group Team (Source: Sahara Group)

Sahara Group, an Energy Conglomerate has released its 2019 Sustainability Report which reflects its commitment to achieving its corporate goals and creating shared value for stakeholders through economic development, protection of the environment and building a sustainable society.

Tagged ‘Transformative Innovation’, the report highlights how Sahara continues to leverage innovation and technology in achieving its corporate goals and sustainability ambitions across its businesses in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.

Director, Governance and Sustainability, Sahara Group, Pearl Uzokwe, said the Group had continued to foster partnerships and initiatives that have co-created a desirable future through innovation.

Uzokwe said: “We have aligned our business operations within our entities with the demands and expectations of our changing world – digitization – which in turn increases our competitive advantage for sustainable growth. Beyond measuring our performance in numbers and outcome, we have raised our lever of sustainability excellence by committing to more strategic partnerships and setting targets to achieve sustainable development from the micro to global scale.”

She said Sahara had aligned its operations and processes in furtherance of the urgent global transition to cleaner energy and low-carbon solutions. *Sahara entered an MoU with the United Nations Development Programme in 2019 to provide access to affordable and sustainable energy in sub-Saharan Africa. This is in line with UN Sustainable Development Goal 7. During the year, we were pivotal to the success of the United Nations Private Sector Advisory Group (PSAG) and joined hands with other stakeholders in  advancing the mission of the African Influencers for Development (AI4Dev), World Economic Forum’s Partnering Against Corruption Initiative (PACI) and other institutions in providing a better quality of life to the world.”

According to Uzokwe, Sahara launched its Green Life Initiative in 2019 in line with its commitment to fostering sustainable environments via the protection of the environment, promotion of a circular economy and recycling of waste within and outside our business. “Among other activities, we established a Recycling Exchange Hub in the Ijora Oloye community and executed upcycling vocational training for the conversion of tyres to usable products. In delivering more environmentally friendly fuels, we committed to complying with the African Refiners & Distributors Association (ARA) standards – the only pan-African organization for the African downstream oil sector – in 2019, as we expanded our investment in the supply of cleaner energy in the form of gas, particularly LPG’” she added.

Sahara is a foremost provider of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) in Africa through West Africa Gas Limited, a joint venture with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). WAGL operates two 38,000 cbm LPG vessels, MT Africa Gas and Sahara Gas that are driving LPG access, security, and stability in Africa. Both vessels have supplied approximately 500,000 MT of LPG across regional markets since their acquisition in 2017. Sahara Group’s 2019 Sustainability Report reflects our economic, social, and environmental activities from January 1 to December 31, 2019. The report is our fifth sustainability report, and our fourth report written in line with the GRI standard. The 2019 Sustainability Report has been organized and presented in accordance with the Sustainability Reporting Standards of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). The guidelines seek to achieve consistency amongst corporations reporting on their sustainability activities.

Please click here to access the sustainability report.

Sahara Group

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