Naome, 16 years old and eldest of 3 children, faced the risk of becoming a bride at a young age. This pushed her to run far away from home to escape the terrible predicament. Luckily, she was intercepted by the police at the border. With our help and support, she is now back home, operating a tailoring business, hoping to be a successful designer in future.
When she was young, Naome played with her older sister whom she looked up to. Unfortunately, her sister succumbed to malaria at the age of 12 when Naome was 9 years old. This was devastating to the entire family and it left Naome without not only a sister, but a playmate too. She took on the responsibilities of the elder child, and dropped out of school in 2019 at the age of 13. She helped her parents with house chores and cleaning the compound, and joined them in the garden too.
Naome, a beautiful, hardworking and responsible girl, was admired by many in the village. One day in mid 2021, a 44 year old man in the village approached her father to ask for Naome’s hand in marriage. Her father shared with her mother the ‘suitor’s’ intentions, which Naome’s mother strongly objected to. He insisted that she think about the matter really hard and what her marriage would mean for them, which greatly disturbed Naome. She was at risk of exploitation and felt hopeless. With her mother disagreeing with the ‘marriage proposal’, Naome’s parents were in disagreement. Tired of the fight between her parents because of the ‘marriage proposal’ and feeling that she was the problem, Naome opted to run away from home.
“The only thing I thought about was running far away. I opted to run to Nairobi because I felt it was far from home, away from my father and the man who wanted to take me for a wife,” she narrated. In September 2021, Naome met a young lady at her village who had just returned from Nairobi. The lady told her about life in Nairobi and how she could make money working there. With the pressure and the time of the marriage fast approaching, she considered going to Nairobi. She knew no one in the city, but had been oriented by her peers on the journey; and the tricks they would use at the Busia border to allow them to cross over into Kenya.
On 11th October 2021, she set off with 5 other young girls. However, upon reaching Olilim, their bus was stopped by the police at the checkpoint. The 6 girls were intercepted at that point. They were later picked up by staff from Dwelling Places and the District Child and Family Protection Unit (DCFPU), who proceeded with them to the central police station. Naome, together with the other girls, were at the police station for 2 weeks where they received psychosocial support and meals. A follow up was done and investigation on the child marriage case was opened.
Upon returning to the community, the DCFPU officer followed up on Naome’s case and held meetings in partnership with Dwelling Places and the Local Chairman’s office, where Naome’s father was cautioned against marrying off her daughter. He made a formal apology and his daughter was resettled home. Naome’s father was also sensitised about the dangers of child marriage and the value of educating both boys and girls, and he committed to protecting his daughter.
Naome was enrolled for skilling at a youth skilling center. She opted for tailoring which she completed and graduated on 18th March 2022. She was availed a tailoring machine, new material and 25.43 Euros towards rent for space to operate her business for a start up kit. Dwelling places contracted a coach from the institution where Naome underwent training under the Community Action Project, to provide mentorship and follow ups on her progress.
In June 2022, 2 months after her graduation, Naome set up her business in a village, a few meters from her family’s home. She has settled and operates her tailoring business and a shop for basic assorted items in the same space. She was able to buy more materials and has so far sold 2 new clothes at 7.9 Euros per dress. In addition, she also mends clothes at a lower rate of between 0.13 - 1.27 Euros.
Not only did Naome experience change, but her father experienced it too; as Naome informed us with an ear to ear smile. “After the meeting at the sub county, my father is a different man. On seeing that I was going to need a lot of money to maintain the space for my business, he built me my own shop, according to him, so that I could settle down.” Naomi stated. “My parents agree on everything now, and consult us on certain things, and that makes me feel so happy. We live as one now,” Naome adds excitedly.
Naome says she is proud to have her own shop now and is happy to be settled home with her family. She says she has watched her father change his attitude towards the girl child following the meetings they had during the intervention. Naome adds that despite what happened, she has a good relationship with her father and enjoys his support on her tailoring business. Speaking about her future, Naome says “I hope to become a recognised designer in the future.”