I don’t know this Toposa girls name. Here is what I do know about her.
She is the daughter of a Toposa herdsman. She is about 15 years of age. At a young age her father cut her cheeks and forehead with a knife and filled the wounds with ash from the fire pit. Those are the “beauty” marks you see in the picture. It is an incredibly painful procedure and of course there are no painkillers or treatments to prevent infection.
She attended St. Bakhita some years ago. She learned to count, to say the alphabet and to write her name. She made friends with girls from many other tribes, the Murle, the Dinke, the Karamajong. She was a happy little girl.
Then one day, she stopped coming to school. When the elders of the school investigated, they learned that her fathers fellow tribesmen humiliated him. They mocked him for allowing his daughter to lose her value as a wife by sending her to school. They asked how he could expect to get a good dowry for her if she became a prostitute. (This is what many Toposa men think of girls who get a basic education).
So he stopped her attending school.
I see this Toposa girl walk by the school almost every day carrying heavy loads of charcoal or firewood on her head. She carries the load from compound to compound hoping that someone will buy from her. She desperately wants to return to school but cannot. She sees the other girls enjoy the education they have been blessed with. She sees that with the help of the food provided to the school by the World Food Programme, the girls are fed and healthy.
The best that this girl can hope for is that her father will sell her as a wife for a good dowry that will improve her fathers situation and maybe that of her siblings but not hers. She has been sentenced to a life of hardship and toil. She will become a wife at a young age and maybe not the mans first wife. If she is his first wife, she will not be his last wife. She will share the compound she will build alone with the other wives her husband will take.
Her husband will make her repay the dowry he paid for her by having her enslaved to him for the rest of her life. It will be her responsibility to build the home, to cultivate the crops, to raise her children and the children her husband fathers with his other wives. She will fetch water, cook, clean and try to generate an income for the family.
I really don’t want my posts to sound like those “for $10 a month you can feed a family in Africa” type ads that we see on daytime television. There is nothing anyone can do for this girl. It breaks my heart to know what this girls life is. But I find it infinitely more difficult to deal with the fact that this Toposa girl is exceptional in wanting an education and that many young girls still aspire to the life this Toposa girl has been sentenced to.
I met this Toposa girl last Sunday. I sat at the very back pew just inside the door and she stood at the door throughout the service. I invited her to sit with me and she cowered behind the door. I asked about her at lunch at lunch and this is what I learned. I also learned that she had gone to see the Ann Grace and asked her to read the Gospel to her. Ann Grace invited her to come to church and she came.