I wake up before dawn to the sound
of my baby sister’s cries.
I place her on my back and walk outside to milk the animals. When I come back in, I wake my brothers and cook them breakfast. I quickly shovel what is left from the bottom of the pan into my mouth, and go fetch water for the rest of the day’s work. My walk back home is hot, and I try to not splash too much water on my dusty ankles and knees as I move forward. My sister is fussing and my arms are heavy and tired; sweat drips down my back and face.
I walk by the school on the way home, and see the other children my age - 11 years old - jumping rope in their uniforms. I stop for a minute and wish I was born a boy, so that I could go to school, instead of work.
I am pulled out of my daydream by my father’s voice: “Imani, come inside!” he beckons. I gather my heavy buckets and walk toward him as fast as I can. There is another man inside when I arrive. I think I have seen him before, but I do not remember. My father tells another woman to take the baby from my back, and demands I stand up straight and push out my chest. The other man circles me, looking up and down every inch of me.
I know what is happening. It is almost my time to marry. My older sister left 3 years ago, when she was my age. My father tells me it is an honor, but I miss her. I am told by other villagers that she has a child now, but I have not seen her since she married. I know she is a wonderful mother since she always took such good care of me.
It is important to my father and our family that I am kind and obedient to the man examining me. He circles me one more time, and caresses my cheek. I feel my face flinch but I try not to jump. I know what he wants from me since men and young boys have forced themselves on me since I was five. My father says kind things about me and I continue to try to do him proud.
Finally, the man and my father go outside to discuss my price. I will be prepared for marriage within a matter of weeks. I keep reminding myself this is a good thing, but I feel sad when I see my family and think of how much I will miss them. But for now I hope that the other wives of my new husband are kind to me. I hear that sometimes they are, and sometimes they are not. I keep wondering what would happen if I could go to school. I think if I did I would like to be a teacher myself someday.
But for today I will tend to the laundry, the children, and the goats, because I do not know how many days I have left here.
THE STORY DOES NOT HAVE TO END THIS WAY.
A divine opportunity
If a child is in school, they are given the chance to chart their own path. To a young Maasai girl, education is much more than an opportunity to “get ahead.” In Tanzania, the law only protects girls from being sold as a child bride if they are registered for school. Birth certificates are nonexistent, so school registration gives them a name and identity that has value so they can now be protected. When a child is sponsored, they are given the opportunity to discover their value and make decisions about their future.
The life of one girl could change lives for generations to come.
Educated mothers are more than twice as likely to send their children to school.
Women reinvest 90% of any income they make into their family, as compared to 35% for a man.
Help her chart a new path.