Hidel, a 15-year-old girl from Kenya, shares her story on girls education

Courtesy of Karen Kasmauski / National Geographic

Courtesy of Karen Kasmauski / National Geographic

“This is my education story, my strength.”

In honour of International Day of the Girl, we’re standing in solidarity with girls worldwide. We’re sharing the story of Hidel, a 15-year-old who faced more than any girl should in her life, but did not give up on her education.

Through our wire mesh window I see children running around, playing, laughing. I wonder how it feels to have a normal childhood.

I was born to an affluent Maasai family in Kenya. Even though my parents didn’t understand the importance of education, they allowed me to go to primary school.

I began school in 2006 and it was the best place for me. My father invested heavily in my education and ensured that I was never out of school for whatever reason. Tragedy struck my family when we least expected it. My father — the sole breadwinner of our family — died from skin cancer. Then my mum was so depressed by this loss that she too passed.

“Yes, I will”

Fortunately, my aunt in Nairobi took me in. I did not have the slightest idea what life had in store for me in the city, but what else was a deprived orphan supposed to do?

When I lived in Nairobi, I enrolled in grade 6 in a school. It was difficult to adapt to my new school. Students formed cliques according to their social status and I struggled to fit in. I was teased and nicknamed “mshamba” because I came from the countryside. I had a passion for writing and speaking, but I found myself staying silent because I wanted to hide my accent.

I was so desperate to fit in, I got involved with things that were dangerous for me. I may have become more popular among my peers, but my academic performance suffered.

Hidel (right) at a Malala event.

Hidel (right) at a Malala event.

“You are going back to the village”

This was my aunt’s voice — despite my pleas — for mercy. My aunt wanted me to undergo female genital mutilation, a practice popular in my homeland. I underwent the cut. I tried to resist but this only resulted in the mutilating knife injuring my chest. The pain was excruciating. Why did I have to undergo all this?

“Why should a girl go to school?”

After the healing process, I managed to go back to school in 2012. This time, I was more driven. I completed my primary education and excelled. I wanted to go to secondary school, but I didn’t think I could because of the cost. My family and friends perceived my hope to continue my education as a waste of time, “Why should a girl go to school?,” they asked. Luckily, I got a scholarship! Through the dark tunnel, I saw light at the end and I watched my once shattered dreams rejuvenate. I never dreamed of a better life. But in every cloud there always a silver lining, right?

“Once you empower a lady, you empower a nation”

Today, I walk along the corridors of Makueni girls High school. I am elated, but my smile also masks the problems I have undergone. I am not the only student here with scars. Many come from backgrounds like mine. I stay focused on my dream of becoming a surgeon. My suffering has become the source of my remarkable strength. Despite the difficulties I face each day in my pursuit for an education, life has taught me never to give up.

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Hidel is a 15-year-old student from Nairobi, Kenya.