By Sr. Mary O’Malley, MMM
Let me tell you the story of the Karamojong girls from Uganda. These unfortunate young girls and children, some as young as 9 years old, were initially found by one of our Trainers sleeping ‘rough’ with no shelter and only plastic sheets in the Majengo Eastleigh area, Nairobi. They are recruited in large numbers by the Somali community and used mainly in domestic service and sexual exploitation, but they are also used in Al-Shabbab (terrorist) activities. We were reliably informed of Karamojong girls who obtained Kenyan passports to enter Somalia. They may get killed, but who cares?
We undertook the major challenge of rescuing these vulnerable young girls. Initially twenty of them were offered shelter in a rented house with food, personal and sanitary items supplied, plus bedding, clothing, etc. We hired security guards for night and daytime duty, also two house mothers to oversee their varied needs and we left them free to move out during the day and take any small casual jobs they might find. It worked well. They went out happy, and at night availed of the security of the shelter.
The numbers increased dramatically every day until we had 98 girls in six houses. We also realised that at least ten of them would deliver babies in the next two months. It was a huge challenge. Many were sick, ranging from chest infections (two had tuberculosis), rashes, sexually transmitted infections, etc. In the first two weeks, we had taken sixty-five of them to various hospitals and clinics. That whole situation contributed to major expenses. Each morning we held daily briefing meetings. There was a strong bond and commitment in the team, and we consulted each other as and when necessary. Eventually, we were able to repatriate some of them, some to formal schooling, others received micro-finance assistance while those with babies opted to go home, and they too were given the rudiments of running a small business.