Today marks World Population Day, created by the United Nations World Population Fund. This day was created to bring attention to world population issues. This year’s theme is focused on the importance of investing in teenage girls globally. Teenage girls, specifically in vulnerable communities, are often marginalized due to their gender and their age. In countries such as Kenya, they are faced with difficult circumstances, such as child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM) which can lead to gender based violence, decreased health, lack of education, poverty and low self-worth.
The 2015 first prize winning title of CODE’s Burt Award for African Literature in Kenya, Sabina and the Mystery of the Ogre tells the story of a young teenage girl's fight to escape from her community’s strong cultural norms: FGM and child marriage. Christopher Okemwa, the author, shares his thoughts:
“I wrote the novella, "Sabina and the Mystery of the Ogre", with an aim of empowering the girl-child and to give her the tools with which to change the community’s mindset about her place in society. In the novella, my narrative struggles desperately and eventually succeeds –just as girls do in our community – to enable her to beat all odds and cultural circumstances that surround her. With legislative systems having failed or are unwilling to curb this heinous act, I give her the voice, the effort, and the determination to stop this heinous act herself. The novella simply tells women to stand up and fight for their rights themselves. It is them, and maybe, some descent men, who can reinforce the women’s rights.
Additionally, I am trying to tell the world, especially the anti-FGM campaigners and the donors, that FGM is not just a cut; there is much more to it. There is the trauma, the teasing as you grow up, the fear instilled in one since she is a baby, the horror foretold before hand—all of which contribute to the girl-child’s low-self-esteem, self-doubt and negative personality.”
Clearly, it is through books like Sabina and the Mystery of the Ogre that communities can be exposed to the harsh reality that teenage girls must endure. Let World Population Day be the start of educating the world on the struggles that teenage girls face, the dangers of these traditions and the importance of education.