By Raisa Okwaras
According to the Gabbra community of Northern Kenya’s Marsabit county, teenage pregnancies and giving birth out of wedlock are considered taboo. Girls that bear children out of wedlock are immediately cast out of the community.
Also, the children get mistreated and once they grow up, children born out of wedlock are not allowed to marry within the ‘pure and rightful’ Gabbra community.
The community has been doing this for years to shun teen pregnancies since they value the purity of a girl during the marriage. With this, they conduct a purity test to check the girl’s virginity before marriage. Any girl that turned out as a virgin would be celebrated. However, those that were not virgins would be ridiculed and even chased away.
Until 2006, the Gabbra girls that became pregnant out of wedlock were chased away to neighboring communities like the Turkana and the Rendille. Contrarily, the Gabbra men that impregnated them would be cleansed and integrated back into the community. Such women would then end up marrying virgins or those the community states as pure.
Luckily, the Indigenous Rights and Resource Management Organisation (IREMO) Group is working to shun the violation of rights and discrimination directed toward these girls and women. According to the IREMO CEO Darare Salesa, the discrimination towards mothers with children out of wedlock is wanting.
“Gabbra community customs forbid sexual relationships outside marriage and the children born out of wedlock are mistreated in a way that to me is unfair and discriminatory,” said Ms. Salesa.
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The single mothers cast out from the Gabbra community are mainly found in several trade centers within the North Horr Sub-county. Data by the Iremo group shows that there are about one hundred Gabbra single mothers in North Horr, seventy-six in Dukana, forty-six in Maikona, and forty in Kalacha. However, they estimate the number to be bigger since the ones they got were of those that joined the empowerment groups.
The IREMO Group has been able to make great strides in promoting the rights of these women and their children. They do this by talking to elders and creating awareness as to why it is important to treat them as part of the community.
According to the single mothers, after being shelved by their communities, their children are the only hope they have. They therefore place a lot of value on their children’s education so that when they become successful, they can change the communities’ perception of single mothers.
“I find it strange for a community to send packing a young girl who has been impregnated and yet those responsible for such acts are protected,” said one Gabbra single mother.
The IREMO Group continues to fight for the rights of these women and their children.
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