I was barely 11 when I was initiated into an age-set according to the southern Rendille community. I had neither seen nor experienced much. Mother said it was better that way so we, the girls, could not resist marriage. It was post-colonial era and I am still astounded by the fact that most members of the community members were not ready to embrace the western culture. I wanted to explore the world but most importantly, I wanted access education and explore the new religion called Christianity that I had heard so much about. The white man spoke so highly of a certain “God” and stories from the bible were actually very captivating. I grew up having been taught about Wakh, our god from a young age. Mother said I was being too stubborn although, I was merely having an open mind and trying to picture my future from a different perspective. In as much as I knew it was impossible, I had to have hope.
My father was then the chief. Plans were already underway for me to be married off to our neighbours, the Turkana. I was to become their next chief’s wife. That would be music to the ears of any of the other girl but not me. I was not ready to be taken away from my clan, the only people I had known all my life and to a whole new and strange environment with a whole lot of new and strange practices. I was not ready to become a woman and bear children at my tender age. My customs say that that is my role, to be a wife and a mother. Resistance was unthinkable, unheard of even.
I kept wondering if I was the only one contemplating about going against the customs. I was too introverted and phlegmatic that I ended up detaching myself from discussions with my age group. There was hope amongst the group but on the other hand, betrayal was also eminent since each one of us was seeking favour in the eyes of the council of elders. You could not trust anyone. One way or the other, word would get to my father and the elders. Being his daughter would not save me from the punishment which they prefer to call treason and disrespect to Wakh. At this point, all I could do is wait for my marriage to be conducted and seal the deal once and for all. Yes, I was waiting but I was broken, battered and bruised at the very thought of the idea.
I am sitting at the entrance of the house in the place I have called home for a couple of seasons now. I am almost delivering my fourth child. I am lonely and apathetic, though not as much as I was when I first got here. I ran out of schemes and had to shove the idea of fleeing out of my head when I imagined the dire consequences. My vexed husband would have come for my head and to make matters worse, by then I was already heavy with his first child. I could not afford to shame my famous and widely sung father or taint his image. That is why I I decided to stay married but vowed to make a difference for my children. All I needed was a little courage to keep me alive and going. Little as it was, it got me here and I must say I am proud of the far I have come.
I still spend insomnious nights thinking of a time when the female role will be more than just being a wife. More than just cooking and giving birth. A time when a woman can wish for and become a leader and not just a leader’s wife. A time when here in my cultural community, both my tribe's men and women will sit at a round table and everyone’s view will be considered important.For now, it remains nothing but a dream.