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Child 'drought brides' sold secretly in Kenya

By Reuters, TrustLaw | 2011-08-04 13:44:44.0 | COMMENTS [ 23 ]

So the rest of the family can get food

HABASWEIN, Kenya - "It's done in the dark," said Fatuma Ahmed, squatting inside her makeshift stick shelter.

"Some people sell their daughters at a tender age so they can get food. It's common but people are silent about it."

Prolonged drought in northern Kenya has pushed many families, like widow Ahmed and her seven children, toward the outskirts of towns where they are more likely to get food and water.

Aid is in short supply and people are resorting to desperate strategies. It's illegal to marry under the age of 18 in Kenya -- so the phenomenon of "drought brides" is only whispered about.

Child marriage is not unusual is this part of the world.

Many pastoralist communities, like Somalis in Habaswein, believe it is important to marry their girls off when they are young so that their honor, or virginity, is preserved.

Women who do not marry young are seen as flawed and a burden on their family.

"In our culture, girls marry as young as nine," said one local community health worker. "She is forced to marry someone when she is not willing. They are forced by their parents."

Among pastoralist communities, a "dowry," in this case a bride price, is traditionally given to the bride's family in the form of livestock.

"People marry when they have a dowry to pay and everything is in plenty," said Abdi Issak, a local aid worker.

"When it is green, the animals can drink from the water pans. You see it in the faces of the people. Their faces shine because they get enough food in their homes."

But most of the animals have died due to the drought that has affected around 10 million people in the Horn of Africa. The animals' carcasses litter the desert landscape.


Now young girls are being sold, according to locals, for as little as 15,000 Kenyan shillings ($168).

"If he's wealthy, it can go up to 50,000 ($559)," said Ahmed.

Hunger drives the exchange.

"A mother will take a 14-year-old girl out of school and sell her to a man -- even an old man -- to get money to give the other children food," said a local chief. "Some households have 10 children and feeding those children is really hard."

Enrolment in his local primary school has dropped to 210 children from 350 since the drought started to bite last year.

"Over a hundred have been removed because of hunger," he said.

According to the United Nations, only one in five girls in North Eastern Province attend school.

Aid agency World Vision is unable to trace 400 of the 3,060 children it sponsors in the district. Some have been sent to stay with better-off relatives who can feed them. Some are working as maids in people's houses or in food kiosks.

But others are married off "just to make sure that the rest of the family does not die from lack of food," said Jacob Alemu, World Vision's local programme manager.


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In Xhosa dey say INDLALA INAMANYALA how can u sell ur own child just 4 food anyway i understand why bcoz poverty it`s taking it`s tol 2 dem & SA is triying by all means to assist. Lot of African countries wil never b better bcoz dey cam & stay here in SA instead of triying 2 resolve issues in their cuntries. Im not saying dis in a bad way but if dey stood 2geda den all dis was not gonna happen & if dey can stop having kids bcoz dey suffer more dan de parents. I feel sorry for those countries dat a not making it we all deserve a better life i just hope God can rescue dem.

2011-08-04 14:20:19.0 | 0 replies

@zazaza52 that is why im saying gore im also angry at the UN cos they can easily give this women di injection tsa go preventer.

2011-08-04 15:08:15.0 | 0 replies

@ ALL --- haai Nkosi sale sowubuya manje uzolanda ibandla lakho..!!!!!! This is not fair to the poor children.

2011-08-04 15:20:29.0 | 0 replies

my gal ibandla lihambile kusele boSatane fela

2011-08-04 15:56:29.0 | 0 replies

Why make lots of babies when you know you can't support? Now, the poor child will have to live with nightmares of being 'ripped' by a khehla the rest of her life. manyala lawa.

2011-08-04 16:20:42.0 | 0 replies

Hey you must understand that those countries are so poor that you find out that the government cannot rollout those contraceptives due to lack of funds and also religion contributes into this. Africa is in dark real dark.

2011-08-04 16:43:28.0 | 0 replies

@almost all who commented here:

How many of you have been outside of South Africa?

In the fertile countries of Mozambique and Zimbabwe, this happens every day.

The headline is actually wrong. It is not mothers who sell their daughters. They are offloading the responsibilities of the burden of feeding another mouth. If the daughter has reached puberty there are many "men" who are willing to look after the poor child.

She is not sold by the mother, she is "bought" by the man who will look after her.

So, who is at fault here?

The mother or the new "man" who will take responsibility of the poor child.

What happens in reality, is that the poor girl is abused by the man - who has the means to but feed the child in return for sex. He gets bored because he has some money or wealth and most generally HIV as well.

So he transmits the HIV, ruins the poor child's chance at a normal marriage she dreams of. When she finds that dream she is HIV positive. Naturally she conceives a HIV family and the rest is the staistic of Africa.

Who is to blame ???

The men who take advantage of young women in poverty, or the fathers who has not protected their own daughters from the vultures lurking out there?

South African men should stop trying to be political activists and start caring for their young. That is the freedom and revolution that is needed. Be a true father first, then everything will be naturally coming to fruition.

You do not need a Trust to take responsibility of your own children. Trusts are not to be trusted.

Ask the Catorzinhas of Africa. They know !!!

2011-08-05 01:35:41.0 | 0 replies


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Believe you will love it.

2011-08-05 06:13:13.0 | 0 replies

These people don't have condomos and kunzima uku chamela ngaphange, eish

2011-08-05 11:50:18.0 | 0 replies

The UN, if they want to help these women,they can.To the women who already have more than one child,why no sterilize these women and spare them the stress of having to raise many children.To the young girls who are maybe from the age of 9 as they said they get married from that age,why not give these children contraceptive injections and spare them the troubles of becoming mothers before they even reach 14.If money can be raise like it had with Haiti disaster,why not the same thing be done for Kenya?

2011-08-05 14:13:36.0 | 0 replies you are not in the mood ya go moroga ....tltltltltlt.....I wonder if o ne o le moding nke o ngwadile eng?...LOL

2011-08-04 15:03:21.0 | 0 replies