Here at Kakenya’s Dream, we value family involvement in our students’ lives. When we found out that Naserian hadn’t seen her mother in 5 years, we knew we had to act.
You may remember Naserian’s* story; a few years ago at the age of 14, she was kidnapped, raped, and forced to marry her captor. After she went missing, her teachers at her local day school grew worried and called Kakenya’s Dream for help. Our staff worked with the community and authorities to find and rescue Naserian, bring her abuser to justice, and enroll her in our programs. Naserian has been protected and supported by Kakenya’s Dream ever since.
Though she’s made incredible strides to overcome and cope with her trauma, there was still something that wasn’t quite right. Naserian longed to see her mother again. At Kakenya’s Dream, we know that the love and support of a parent is irreplaceable, so we decided to search for Naserian’s mother and facilitate a reunion between the two.
To understand how Naserian and her mother Faith* were separated, we must go back to when Faith was only 15 years old. At this young age, Faith was forced into a child marriage. After having her first baby shortly thereafter, her husband mistreated her and they lived in severe poverty. Desperate to make a better, safer life for herself and her baby, Faith attempted to leave him and live with family members, but the abuse continued while living with family. She was eventually sent back to live with her husband again, and soon became pregnant with Naserian. For years after she would attempt to build a safer life for her and her children, but poverty and a lack of support and resources were insurmountable obstacles. It was under these circumstances of violence and poverty that Naserian and her mother became separated years ago.
Naserian has been longing to meet her mother since coming into our programs, and now that she is in a safe, stable environment, we knew it was time to search for her mother. On the day they were finally brought together, everyone grew silent as Naserian and Faith looked at each other in disbelief and embraced in a loving hug. Since then, they’ve spent much time together catching up and getting to know one another again.
Watching Naserian and her mother being reunited reminded me of why we always take a family-centered approach at Kakenya’s Dream whenever possible. We build bridges between parents and their daughters, working with them to help them understand that their daughters can have a different, more fulfilling path than the tradition of female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage. For many parents who have only ever known this kind of life for women and girls, it can be difficult to imagine how to go about breaking the mold for their daughters. We take time to educate our community on the other possibilities available to their daughters, the benefits of girls’ education, and on all of the harmful consequences of FGM and early marriage. Through this approach, we are changing opinions on these harmful traditional practices and attempting to break generational cycles of violence, while making sure our girls’ families remain involved in their lives, and most importantly, supportive of the path their daughters are on.
This important work reunifying families, empowering girls, and breaking cycles of poverty and violence through education is creating mothers, fathers, and entire communities who are advocates against harmful traditional practices, and strong supporters of girls’ education and empowerment. This is the power of Kakenya’s Dream.
*Names have been changed to protect the identities and privacy of persons mentioned.