We are excited to share our latest piece published with The New York Times, Child, Bride Mother: Kenya. The piece is accessible today in digital format, and will run in print this coming Sunday, December 13 in The New York Times Sunday Review.
The article, made possible through the generous financial support of the Wallace Global Fund, documents first-hand accounts of the alarming rise in gender-based violence in Kenya due to Covid-19. Our team worked across countries and time zones to produce this piece, which highlights the devastating impact that Covid-19 has had on Kenyan girls already at risk for FGM and early marriage. TYTW Founder and Pulitzer-prize winning photojournalist Stephanie Sinclair produced and reported the story from New York. In Kenya, videographer Jeremiah Kipainoi and local journalists Moses Letitoyia, Nancy Leaduma and Elina Lanyasunya traveled through rural Samburu County to meet with girls for whom Covid-19 has become synonymous with lost opportunities.
TYTW feared that pandemic conditions would increase economically-driven child marriages to compensate for lost income. We found evidence of an increase in these abuses, and more. Alarming reports of mass FGM ceremonies were circulated to our team, along with an increase in teenage pregnancies and child marriages. This summer, reports of child sexual abuse and related crimes to Kenya’s national child protection hotline had spiked compared to the same time period last year. These conditions were compounded even further by the effects of climate change, taking the form of one of the region’s worst locust swarms in decades, a sparse East African rainy season, and a recent drought.
We met girls like Ann, who was nearly finished with secondary school when she became pregnant during the forced Covid-19 holiday, and is barred from returning until she gives birth.
“If the schools had opened earlier, we could have gone back,” Ann said. At 17, she had aspirations of studying law before her pregnancy.
We spoke with girls like Elii and Nasanoi, both only ten years old and subjected to FGM.
“My sister and I were circumcised because of Corona,” said Nasanoi, 10. “We still live in fear. ”
We heard from girls like Deborah and Naeku, who both narrowly escaped their intended betrothals after returning home from school.
“My mother tried to marry me off to a certain man but I refused, said Naeku, 15. “Us girls are being denied our rights.”
We met a ten-year-old girl forced into marriage, who had wanted to become a teacher.
“I'd never seen him before he married me,” Jacinta told our team. “I really wanted to go to school. I really wanted to become a teacher.”