Often referred to as ‘Mama Nuria’, a name that best describes her motherly nature; Nuria a mother of two daughters, 20 and 10 is best known for fighting, advocating and preserving the rights of girls and women. Her iron fist character has caused arrests and prosecution of many perpetrators of violence against children and women thus earning the name-‘street lawyer’. Her zeal to make the world safer for women has earned her recognition by Fortune Magazine as the Most Powerful Woman in the world! How about her courage to speak when no Borana man would allow? – Well this has for three consecutive years (from 2013-2016) gained her recommendation by Head of State as a SHUJAA (hero) – in Marasbit County. Many fear her. Many love her as well.
A few years ago, while working as a primary school teacher in Marsabit, Nuria was worried by the low number of girls enrolled into schools. Furthermore, the few enrolled girls dropped out of school due to rampant practices of Female Genital Mutilation, (FGM) and Child marriage. Nuria felt that her womenfolk were socially, economically and politically disempowered. She therefore decided to quit her job and start an organization that would basically advocate for the rights of the vulnerable lot.
2010, Marsabit Women Advocacy and Development Organization (MWADO) was born. MWADO has been able to address problems within the community including breaking male dominance characterized by the pastoralists lifestyle. Women from this community (The Borana) are considered as property of men. Men also marry up to four wives. Some men neglect children and discriminate wives from the preceding marriages. Girls suffer the effects more as they are traded of through marriage to older men while as young as 9 years – Here, girls are often given less attention and disregarded for school.
MWADO has been a great platform for redress and a voice for the voiceless. MWADO works closely with the county education department to enroll and retain girls in school and also works very closely with the police to call for arrests on perpetrators of FGM and child marriage. They also escalate cases to courts to ensure offenders are prosecuted accordingly. So far MWADO has successfully nabbed ten perpetrators. Six of whom have faced due prosecution:-Two women; a mother to a cut girl and a cutter, were recently released for performing FGM. They had been jailed for two years. Four other perpetrators are currently serving 2 years jail term.
This move has seen a reduction in cases of FGM and child marriage in Marsabit. Nuria is happy that there is a law in place as opposed to years back when FGM was a legal affair. She is however aware of the new tricks that the community is adapting to which include taking girls for the cut to neighboring towns such as Isiolo and Moyale, taking others to neighboring countries such as Ethiopia and performing the practice under high secrecy. She also blames the area political leaders who interfere with cases by aiding release of offenders before investigation is fully done. She says that most of the cases that she picks up end in this manner!
Asked if the community is aware of the effects of the practice, Nuria confirms that her organization has hitherto, through the Anti-FGM Board carried out training of chiefs, nyumba kumi officials and paralegals. She has also led many community dialogues especially with village elders who make most of the decisions for the community. Additionally, they carry out quarterly local radio programs that reach a big geographical area in Marsabit. She is certain that the community is aware of the harmful aspect of FGM and that arrests have been an ultimate solution to deter and manage the practice.
She too, has organized for Court Users Committee (CUC) training of police, magistrates and judges on how to handle cases of Sexual,Gender Based Violence especially preserving evidence that would be used to prosecute perpetrators.
Her elder daughter has also been quite an icing on the cake! She is currently in university pursuing a degree in Law. When schools close she accompanies her mother to workshops, forums and events where she speaks on the importance of educating girls. She is also a role model to many school going girls; she moves from schools to schools encouraging girls to pursue their dreams.
Nuria is currently viewing for a position of Member of Parliament under Frontier Alliance Party, a patrolists party. She hopes that in the coming elections, August 2017, if she is elected to represent women in parliament. She will best champion her dreams.
For FGM to somehow end among the Borana community, the most powerful leader ‘Aba Gada’ who heads the Gumi Gayo assembly based in Ethiopia has to make a ruling against it. Nuria perfectly understands such political and cultural barriers that impede the fight to end FGM, but she still forges on!