Sponsorship helping young women avoid polygamy
September 13, 2011
Everline, a CFCA sponsored youth in Kenya, comes from a
polygamous family. She and others of her generation believe
polygamy is an outdated tradition.
Fourteen-year-old Everline, a CFCA sponsored youth in Kenya, aspires to excel in school and become a teacher – a life very different from that which her mother has led.
Everline's mother, Magdalene, was 14 when she married Everline's father. Magdalene was her husband's fourth wife.
At CFCA's project in Kisumu, Kenya, many sponsored children come from polygamous families.
Today, members of Everline's generation are trying to change the practice and create better lives for themselves.
"I think it's an outdated tradition," said Everline. "It is sad that it is still practiced, especially by members of our community."
Social workers such as Milkah Adina and Marceline Orende advise youth to retain traditions and customs that are worthwhile and discard those that can be harmful.
They teach Everline and other girls to believe in themselves and pursue a good education. This way, they can be independent and marry out of love rather than for wealth.
Sponsorship in polygamous families
Kisumu is in the heart of Kenya's Luo community,
where polygamy is still practiced. The majority of
the children in CFCA's Kisumu project come from
Traditionally, a man's wealth was determined by
the herds of cattle he owned and the number of
wives he had. But the practice is disappearing.
"Many families in the program, especially the
youth, see polygamy in a different dimension and
have the feeling that it is very expensive and
old-fashioned," said Lucy Amollo, Kisumu
Normally, one or two children per family are
eligible for sponsorship in Kisumu. In
polygamous families, the project looks at the
individual wife and her children as a family unit,
and only one child per family may be selected.
Lucy Amollo, Kisumu project coordinator, said that Hope for a Family sponsorship places priority on education to help students make informed decisions and be agents of change in their communities.
"Through the formation of sponsored mothers groups and youth groups, CFCA in Kenya has found a forum to educate and empower ... by creating awareness of issues affecting them, like cultural practices," said Amollo.
By staying in school, Everline hopes she will have better options for her future than those her mother had. She is currently enrolled in a local primary school. Her favorite classes are mathematics and English.
What interests Everline most is the good relationship that exists between her and her teachers. She said that their friendliness has created a comfortable environment for learning, and she aspires to be a teacher someday.
"My wish is to excel in my education and have a good job so that I do not have to get married to a polygamous man," Everline said.
At home, Everline balances her time between studying and helping her mother with chores. She enjoys collecting firewood and water, looking after the family's goat and tending to the garden.
Everline and her mother, Magdalene, wash dishes together.
She is grateful to have a sponsor who thinks about her and is helping her achieve her goals. She knows her sponsor, Mary (Katsey) Long, cares about her because she visited Everline in Kenya two years ago.
"I'm thrilled that she's receiving an education and the possibility of a better kind of life," Long said.
Everline was very shy and quiet when they first met, said Long, but recent photographs show her personal growth.
"She seems to be less shy ... more confident in the stance of her photo," Long said. "You can tell sometimes by the way a child is standing and smiling."
Everline feels lucky, and has promised to make good use of the opportunities sponsorship has provided. Her mother agrees.
Thanks to sponsorship, Magdalene feels confident in her daughter's future.
"It is such a relief to know that she can continue with her education smoothly," said Magdalene. "I am now assured Everline's life will be much better than mine."