At 8 years her lower teeth were pulled out, at 12 she underwent the cut and immediately married off to a man double the age of her father.
Nancy Milanoi, now 38, is slowly learning to live with a bitter past and inhuman experiences she underwent under the watch of her mother and foster father.
“They mercilessly took away what God had given me – my teeth, cut off parts of my sexual organs – and as if that was not enough, my parents married me off to a 70-year-old man,” says a bitter Milanoi.
That is the anger Milanoi directs to her parents. Her mother got married to a man, she calls her father, when she was already born. She hoped to complete her education and probably become a doctor.
Milanoi is now a championing the rights of girls, widows and the less fortunate in the society.
She says she would not like to see girls go through what she underwent as a minor in the hands of people she trusted to protect her.
Most Educate Woman
She wanted to become the most educated woman in her Olorien village in Keek-Onyokie, but all that was watered down by her parents’ desire to ‘sell’ her as a wife so they could get a cow or two.
Milanoi, have live memories of what happened in November 1992, on a day she came back home from school and found “very many strange people”.
The school had closed for the third term. Milanoi, who in Class 5, was looking forward to eventful December holidays when she would be joined by other village girls in taking care of her father’s sheep and goats.
A typical Maasai village girl takes care of home chores and sometimes is involved in taking out the goats and sheep to the fields for grazing.
The school holiday ahead would have allowed her to mix with her village age mates and share the very many Maasai folk tales.
This was not to be for Milanoi. Her parents had planned to marry her off, and the Suitor, Kaiseyiei ole Korokoro, 70, would not take her before she undergoes a mandatory cut.
Korokoro, a resident of Oloishobor, was at the time a neighbour of former Kajiado West MP, Moses Sakuda.
Sakuda was Milanoi’s teacher at Olchoronyori Primary School. Her classmate was the Kajiado West MP, George Sunkuyia.
To satisfy the desires of Milanoi’s suitor, her parents, who have been discussing the possibility of marrying her off, chose that day to seal the deal, and circumcise her.
“On that evening, I had just left Sunkuyia, now MP, as I took my route home. On reaching home in Oloirien village, there were many unfamiliar faces. I could also spot one or two of my aunts,” says Milanoi.
Served Tea with Bread
She was even more surprised when she was served tea with bread, a rare thing to happen in that village on a day that is not Christmas.
“My mother came to me after I was done with my tea and told me that I would be circumcised that night. I begged them to spare me but no one would listen to me,” said Milanoi.
She even went down her knees as she asked her aunts to plead to her parents to spare her, but no one listened to her.
On the night of that fateful night, she told her mother that she had agreed to it but that it should be done more decently. To be done in a hospital.
“I wanted them to let me go to the hospital so that I can escape in the process. Both my parents could not hear any of my pleas. By 6 am of the following day, I had been brutally circumcised after they tied me up with ropes,” said Milanoi.
This, Milanoi, was the second abusive act that was visited on her by her parents after they removed two of her lower teeth while she was only 8 years.
Milanoi had to bear with the ritual that took her about 30 days to heal. Thereafter, her parents refused to take her to school.
She was to join Class 6 in January 1993, but all her school uniforms were torn. They were torn as women forced her into circumcision ritual.
“Because I loved school, lack of a new pair of uniform could not keep me at home. I started going to school, but at the school, everyone was laughing at me,” said Milanoi.
They laughed at her because she was wearing shukas and also have learned that she had gone through the cut.
Among the Maasai, once a girl has been cut, she is supposed to be married off to somebody and not supposed to mix with children in school.
She spent her first term in school, after undergoing female genital mutilation, without uniform because her parents could not waste any more money on her.
Marked For Marriage
Milanoi had been marked for marriage, and her parents were only waiting for her suitor to come and pick her.
When the schools closed for the April holiday, in 1993, Korokoro, Milanoi’s suitor, arrived at Olorien village with his best man to pick her youngest wife.
“I was in the house, and my father came in to announce that it is time I pack what is mine because my husband has come to take me away,” said Milanoi.
Milanoi says after her father spoke, her body went numb for close to 30 minutes. Her head, she says, went blank too.
She was now 13 years and could not understand what her parents were up to. She wanted to continue with her education and was not ready to be a wife to anybody.
Her suitor had arrived at her home in an old model Peugeot car with a gear-liver attached to its steering.
Her father and some other village men bundled Milanoi into the car and locked her inside as her suitor had a short meeting with the family members.
“I watched from the car what they were doing. At some point, I looked at the loose gear liver and said to myself, this is the one making this car move. I attempted to damage it. Someone saw the car shaking from outside and they came to stop me,” says Milanoi.
She was forcefully taken. At 11 am, she was already at her suitor’s home. They prepared milk for her but she refused to take.
On the first day, she slept with Kirokoro’s first wife. On the following morning, she asked her fellow children at the home to be escorted to the bushes for a short call.
While in the bushes, she found an opportunity to escape. After walking for several hours later, she walked to her uncle’s home, who she says was a Christian.
“On the third day at my uncle’s house, where I thought I was now secure, I saw a vehicle approaching. The same old man and a local councillor alighted and my uncle handed me to him,” said Milanoi.
On the night of that day, the old man went to her room in a pair of shorts.
The First Fight
“I saw him approach me. I had to fight for my life. I could not let him come close to me, and so I kicked the old man as hard as I could. He went down and I sat the whole night,” Milanoi says.
On the following day, the old man put up a fence around his house to make sure his young wife will not escape.
That night Milanoi planned to escape. She woke up at 2 am and walked out. No one heard her going. While outside, she locked the door to ensure no one will follow her.
She walked to her teacher’s (Sakuda) home to seek assistance. Sakuda was not home and his wife advised Milanoi to seek assistance from the education department.
She later went to the District Education Office in Ngong where she was introduced to a Mrs. Gitau, who served as area Assistant Education Officer.
“She gave me accommodation for three days, and later summoned my parents to her office. What shocked me is that the old man, whom I was married to, came with a local chief and our councillor. I was confused,” says Milanoi.
At the end of the meeting, Milanoi was advised to go home with her parents. While at home, Milanoi was allowed to go back to school.
“I was allowed to go to school but my parents did everything possible to mistreat me. They refused to give me food. Getting clothes also became so hard,” says Milanoi.
Her parents accused her of being against culture. Children laughed at her while in school. Out in the village, they saw her as a cursed woman.
All that weighing on her tender age, she was forced to walk away to the unknown.
She sought employment as a house help in Ngong’s Matasia area, and while there, 4 years later entered into an abusive marriage.
In 2002 her husband died and her in-laws waged a war to kick her out of Rimpa estate home.
She went to the International Federation of Women Lawyers’ offices in Nairobi and later won back her husband’s inheritance.
Milanoi has now formed a community-based organisation – Naretu Maa – which fights for the rights of girls in Kajiado County.
“We also fight for the widows’ rights and joined hands with other like-minded organisations to end FGM and early marriages among school-going girls.
The Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS 2014) showed that 21 per cent of women and girls aged between 15-49 years in Kenya have undergone FGM.
The enactment of the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act 2011 was a great milestone for Kenya and the country has seen a national decline in the prevalence of FGM.
However, the prevalence varies widely across regions and ethnic communities, with the practice still higher among communities such as the Maasai of Kajiado County at 78 per cent, where it is directly linked to marriageability and is typically carried out on young girls below the age of 15 to make them eligible brides.