Fatuma Mohamed, "I refuse to sell my daughter"

Fatuma Mohamed, a refugee from Somalia, has been living with her six children in a camp in Kakuma, northwest Kenya, since March 2006. She told IRIN how her husband had tried to sell her then 14-year-old daughter into marriage.

“One day a middle-aged man from our community came knocking on my door asking for my daughter. When I asked him why he wanted to see her he said, ‘She belongs to me, she is my wife’.

“I looked at the man with astonishment; he pushed me into the house, went up to my daughter, grabbed her by the arm and tried to walk away with her.

“The man kept on saying he had agreed on this with my husband but I just thought he was mad. My four boys were at home and managed to scare the man away, saving my daughter from being abducted.

“I went immediately to the police to report the incident and when my husband came back I told him what had happened. I was afraid of his answer but somehow confident he would have sorted out the misunderstanding.

“I could not believe my ears when I heard him saying the man was right and that he had agreed with the family elders to sell our girl into marriage in exchange for US$4,000. He started shouting at me, saying he was the head of the family and wanted this man to support us.

“Marriage is nothing about love, he said, it is a resource to secure the future.

“My maternal grandmother and all her sisters were married off in their adolescence to older men but this is not what I wanted for my daughter. We left Somalia to give my kids an education and better life.

“Having been reported to the police, my husband ran away from the camp with the money. Ever since, we have been facing problems with the community and with the family of the man who paid for my daughter. The man wants either his money back or my daughter. His family threatens to kill us. Our neighbours spit on me when I walk down the street.

“For the past four years, Fihman has never left our house. She is not going to school and has been rejected by the community; she has no friends any more. She isn’t living the life an 18-year-old girl should be living.

“I don’t have any money to pay them back. But for nothing in this world would I ever give him my daughter even though she may end up being a spinster in a society where marriage is basically expected of everyone.”