Millions of girls remain threatened by gender-based violence and cultural practices such as child marriage and female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). In the eastern Kenya regions of Isiolo, Meru and Samburu, hundreds of girls have fled their homes to escape such practices. Others, like 10-year-old Nancy*, have fled to escape sexual violence.
Currently taking refuge at the Ripples international Tumaini Rescue Home in Meru, alongside 159 other girls, Nancy shared her experiences with IRIN on 11 October as the world marked the first International Day of the Girl Child.
"The two places I hate most are our home and farm. I also fear my relatives, and all male neighbours. They did very bad things to me last year, and I still remember the incidents like they happened today or yesterday.
"My uncle was the first to defile me; he inflicted injuries to my private parts. During the first incident, I found him waiting for me on my way home from school. He asked me to follow him to our farm close to our home. I wondered where he was taking me, but he kept on telling me not to worry as he was going to give me a good present. In the middle of the maize farm, he asked me to strip naked. I refused [and] he used force. It was very painful. He [then] took me home and left. I was unable to do my homework that night, [but] I could not tell my aunt, who was always very hostile to me. My mother had run away after daily beatings by my father.
“Three days later, my uncle repeated the act. I decided to inform my aunt. She later told my father, and they promised to take action. I was happy that night and felt secure. My father consoled me, and asked me to share the room with him - but he also defiled me.
"I left home early [the next morning], went to school and informed my teacher what had happened; he was shocked. He rushed me to the hospital, where I was given drugs, I am told to prevent HIV and pregnancy. I later went for [testing]. I thank God all the tests were negative.
“I always ask girls of my age who feel threatened or think they are at the risk of being defiled by relatives to talk with our teachers.
“Most girls, especially those like me whose parents have separated, have more confidence in their teachers [than] their relatives.
“Tumaini [Rescue Home] has helped me. I have new parents, sisters, young brothers and family members here. I help my friends who were defiled to take care of their children.
“I was number three in my class [exams], but I hope to be top in my class at the end of this term."