Being the 1st ‘Different One’- A moran’s perspective


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“How do you feel when you see your age-mates getting married and you are just there?”

I feigned a “Pardon?” while digging my brain for an appropriate answer.

A few days ago, I was in Kiltamanny area in Samburu County, interviewing a moran(A circumcised Samburu young man) about early marriages, polygamy and Female Genital Mutilation in his community. We were chatting up pretty easy until he asked me a question that caught me completely off-guard;

He didn’t ask, how would you feel, he said do. Ok, maybe I’m paranoid.

“How do you feel when you see your age-mates getting married and you are just there?”

One of two things;

  1. He wants to marry me (LoL)
  2. He’s trying to drive a point home by contextualizing* the issue.

“It depends.” I tell him.

“On what?”

Funny how this guy had turned the tables on me and now ‘held the microphone…’

“On how old you are, what kind of society you live in and personal life goals.”

“Ooooh. But isn’t a girl is a girl anywhere in the world. Girls like ‘groupie (not his exact words, implied) things.’ Following each other, doing things at the same time because you don’t want to be left behind.” TRUTH

I disputed with a couple of ‘intellectual’ arguments revolving around personality and reiterated my first answer. He nodded and let it go.

But he’d made his point. In communities where there is little exposure, education (formal) and influence from the outside world, questioning traditions is useless. A girl is circumcised at age10, 11 and by 13, she’s ripe for marriage. By the time, she’s 20, she has at least 5 children. After a few more years, her husband will then bring her a helper and the cycle will continue until there are no more cows to give as dowry.

“In other parts of Kenya, there are more unmarried women.” He says.

I laugh and ask him if by marrying more than one wife a man does a favor to women folk. He smiles.

“In these villages, if my age-mates are getting married at 13, having gone through the rite of passage, I can’t ‘hang out’ with them if I haven’t done it. They are WOMEN…I am not. The feeling of seclusion and solitude is universal. I think that’s the biggest hurdle. To convince someone that its ok to be different, to be the FIRST different one.”

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How many women are you going to marry?

“Nikioa wengi, ni mmoja tu.” (Only one)

So why was he trying to defend the polygamists, FGM and early marriages?

“I did no such thing. I just stated facts and why outsiders need to find more innovative ways of bringing mindset change where its not wanted. If any strategy is to work, the initiative has to be taken up by those of us (from the community) who have tested and seen the benefits of first, education. Education really is the key. I would be somewhere in the bushes raiding another community for cattle if it were not for an education.”

I left this interview EDUCATED. All the stereotypes and ujuaji I had coming into this had vaporised.

Lessons:

 -Dare to stand out. Be the first. Take one for the team.

– The feeling of seclusion and solitude is universal. Reach out when and if you can. At one point or another, you have felt something similar.

-Formal education is cool, but it won’t take you nowhere without informal education.

-Have conversations with an open mind, you will get what you came for and more.

 

 

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