I made a call to my aunt who resides in shags (rural area). While her phone rang, I chuckled at the amount of information and village gossip I would garner form this one hour call. It was going to be fun, I thought. She picked up and after exchanging pleasantries we plunged deep into the tittle-tattle from the village. An hour later having exhausted our stories she tells me, “I’m happy that you are in the city in school and also working, girls in the village have either been married off or are have been impregnated during this COVID-19 period.”
I hunged up after this as I chewed on what she’d said. Girls in any society are an endangered specie and have been for a long time. Being deemed as the weaker sex has not helped either as most of them are left with scars from different battles. Doesn’t the saying go “there's no place like home?” how then can one explain all that has been happening to girls around the country since the pandemic hit? What explanation will suffice to the fact that 15 girls have been impregnated in a huge number married off since COVID-19 at the coast?
A number of reasons are to be blamed for this, in Mombasa, most girls have been married off to wealthier families in order for their families to eat. The girls are given off and a small token is traded in their place. The token mostly consists of food or money which will sustain the family for a period of time. Another valid reason for the increase in the number of pregnant girls is the fact that most of the male relatives prey on the girls. The victims have fallen prey to male relatives or neighbours who at any time lure them with food before assaulting them whenever they feel fit.
“Most of these cases you will find involve children who were taken from urban centres in the wake of Covid-19 and left in the hands of their grandmothers in the countryside as the parents returned to the towns,” Salome Muthama Children Officer Machakos Town.
Most of these cases go unreported as the police do nothing despite overwhelming evidence being provided to them. Absence of guardians or parents promotes such cases. Since the pandemic, most children were taken to the countryside in the care of the grandparents. Since the grandparents cannot be on the girls back and call, predators take advantage of this.
The pandemic has brought about a lot of change but when the lockdown has been lifted, what will become of these girls who have to live through this pandemic?