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Rescuing Masai Girls From Early Marriage

This is the VOA Special English Education Report, from | Nangurai of Kajiado, Kenya, retired as a teacher in 2005. Today, at the age of 62, she could be living a quiet life in retirement. Instead, she leads an organization at her home called GRACE -- the Girls' Rights, Attention, Care and Rescue Center. She tries to rescue Masai girls from early marriage and make sure they get an education. She has rescued more than 700 girls since 1986. She now has 15 girls at her center, and she is building a dormitory to house up to 80 girls. In the traditional culture of the Masai people, fathers often promise their young daughters in marriage to older men. Most girls are between the ages of 12 and 14, with some even younger. Their bodies are not ready for sex and childbirth. But that is not the only problem. Most of them must also leave school. Priscilla Nangurai's older sister was forced into marriage at a young age, but demanded that Priscilla receive an education. She says the problem begins when a girl gets "booked" when she is very young, or not even born yet.She says booking is when a man goes to a family, and if there are little girls there, he can "book" a marriage with one of them. If one of the wives is expecting a baby, he will say, 'I want something from this womb.' And he can do that. A 14-year-old girl named Roseline has been at the rescue center since 2008. At the age of four she was booked to a man who she thinks was about 60 to 70 years old."Yes, I was booked," She says. But when I knew the person that booked me, I just talked to Ms. Nangurai. I told her the whole story.Masai culture calls for the man who wants to marry a girl to start paying the girl's father once the booking has been made. Traditionally the payment is made with cows, but today money can also be exchanged. When the marriage will soon take place, the girl must undergo a custom that some call female circumcision. Others denounce this practice followed in Masai and other cultures as female genital mutilation.A 13-year-old girl also named Priscilla was brought to the center at the age of five. Her mother wanted her to be educated. The girl says she is thankful especially for health reasons that she did not have her sex organs cut. She worries that she could have gotten AIDS from unclean tools. And that's the VOA Special English Education Report. Our website now has a weekly Words in the News Quiz. Test your vocabulary at I'm Mario Ritter. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 19Jul2012)
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