Elizabeth Chepkorir Barta
What’s your name and how have you associated with Dandelion in the society?
Elizabeth Chepkorir Barta. How I meet with dandelion has helped me. I met with them one day and spoke to them. They brought water tanks and medication. If my community was freehearted we would even have hospitals and everything around. Dandelion brought us everything, but the problem was that there was no response from the community. There was language barrier for most people did not speak Swahili, but I did. They called me to the office. I introduced two ladies to dandelion, because ladies are the ones who take part in FGM in this area. I got to an understanding with them and became friends with them so as to try and stop FGM. These ladies help me know where a girl was undergoing FGM and I went there and told them that there is no sense of practicing such acts. And they listened. The two ladies became my friends and since they knew me it was easy to put the message across. Sometimes where I went they did not know me and they thought I worked with the police or ‘nyumba kumi’ and did not talk to me. But the two ladies helped me go through such instances. The ladies told me of a case going on. At night, I took ten people and went to the place where the FGM was being performed. We raided the place and took the girls in. I am an old woman and not married, sometimes I take the girls we rescue and stay with them in my house till morning when they go to school.
Will the girls be looked for in school?
No, because they saw they were rescued by people of ‘nyumbani kumi’ and fear getting reported.
I used to circumcise girls. I didn’t do it during the day. I used to wake up at 1am or 3am and circumcise twenty to thirty girls. I did not want the males to see how I work so it was all in secret only for women. My work was at night even if it is forty girls, I circumcise one village when I’m done I go to another and after that I go back home and sleep. This job is not for everyone, there is a clan that performs it, and my grandmother was also circumcised girls. Before she passed away she taught me. Do this and not this. So I practiced for a while for I saw it was not bad.
Why did you stop this act?
Dandelion told me I would be caught and I would pay a fine of 50000 shillings or jailed for life. And I thought will I leave my children on the streets just for practicing the act? So I choose to stop.
Now that you have worked with dandelion and helped in the fight against FGM, do you find what you were doing wrong?
Yes, I even pray to God for forgiveness
How many girls have you circumcised?
Many, over 1,000
Is your work only stopping FGM or do you also educate them about how FGM is wrong? Sometimes I educate them, like men say if their wife is not circumcised they cannot cook well. I explain to them that it is not the body that cooks but the hands, which has nothing to do with circumcision. Women are my friends and I speak to them. They ask me, why shouldn’t I get circumcised and my husband wants me to? I call the husband to the woman and explain to him that it is not necessary for his wife to get circumcised. And some men force their wives to undergo the cut. So I went to the ladies who perform the act and told them this must stop, if I stopped why shouldn’t you? Why should you pay a fine of 50000 or be jailed for this? Everyone should pick their Bibles and go to church.
What are the effects found when a girl is circumcised?
When you force a girl to get circumcised they can get hurt. When you circumcise a girl when she is pregnant it can lead to a miscarriage, the mother can die due to blood loss.
Have you cut a girl that later caused any effects?
Yes, there was a 4 month pregnant girl and she bled. I went into hiding in the forest for one week. But the girl healed. I went into hiding because the girl fainted after excessive loss of blood, what was I supposed to do? The girl healed and the chief came to look for me. He asked me to stop cutting girls and I stopped. Because I slept in the forest for seven days I don’t know if my children ate or slept hungry…. I don’t know. I saw that there was no profit in taking part in FGM for only 200 shillings.
Do you only fight for FGM or also early marriages?
If I hear a case of a girl who wants to be married of before her age I try help where I can.
Is there a case you have handled?
No I just talked to the girl who wanted to get married at a young age. She was not being forced into marriage. I talked to the girl and she continued with her education.
In your view do you think early marriages are a good thing or a bad thing?
It is bad because I also have 6 daughters.
Why is it bad for girls to get married at an early age?
When her husband tells her to go cook or herd the cattle she goes crying because she is a child. If she is a child how is she supposed to know the duties of a wife and her age does not allow because she is too young.
How long have you practiced FGM?
Around 15 years. What made me stop was the pregnant girl I circumcised and hid in the forest for seven days.
Are you circumcised? Yes
How and when did you come into contact with Dandelion? About 2 years ago.
How old are you? I was born in the year 1948
How do you feel after many years of circumcising girls?
After I stopped I feel great, I am a born again. I have stopped the ways of the world, because I saw me doing that was like I am pushing my life back.
Do you speak to other woman to stop taking their girls to get circumcised? Yes, as I have told you I made friends talking here talking to them about this. I also talk to my friends about it.
In this area are there cases of FGM? No, even since I moved here there have been no cases
What do you do when you hear girls are getting circumcised?
I got till where it is taking place and tell them if you do not stop I will call the police to come and see what you are doing here. I even go to the chief and report cases. The chief tells me that he did not know and no one tells him. So he asked me if I hear of any other cases I go and tell him. Sometimes I do not go to the chief, I go to the area myself.
What if it is someone’s wife?
We chase them away. They choose to for far away like in Masaai land because they too have the same beliefs.
Before you moved here where did you used to live? Ndoine, Molo.
What made you move here? The government brought us here due to violence in Molo.
Do you like it here; is it better than where you were?
Yes. It’s a forest there here there is light and you can do anything you want. It is more peaceful here. There is no robbery or hiding.
So now what is your occupation? I am a farmer.
How old is your oldest child?
The first born is in form four. But I’m not her birth mother, I’ve never given birth, I took her in. The other is a boy in form one.
What of your husband?
He left me. You know in Kalenjin tribe you have many wives and he had five. I stayed jobless and decided to start circumcising girls because I cannot do casual labor.
How does your life feel?
My life is great, I am happy because now I even have chicken. Before I used to circumcise girls and follow the ways of the world and making people surfer.
What did you use your money for after circumcising the girls?
I bought alcohol, nothing else. It was to distract the mind because I have cut to many girls my mind needed a distraction.
And when you were circumcising did you do anything cultural like chants or use concoctions?
Yes, traditional brew. I used to drink it before I perform the act. It is culture.