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Voices of Help

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RICHLAND, Wash-- Thursday at WSU Tri-Cites, a Kenyan advocate for women's safety spoke to students and staff about the very real threat young women face overseas.

Her name is Rachel Tengbom, and her goal is to educate and protect young women in the Massai community of Kenya to prevent forced genital mutilation.

So what is genital mutilation?  It's female circumsition and in their culture, it's oftentimes practiced without medicine.  It's a symbol of becoming a woman and it usually leads to early marriage.  Some of these girls are married at the age of 8 or 9 sometimes to men five times their age.

That's why Tengbom started the Voices of Hope program to give these girls educational opportunities to avoid forced circumsition.

"The first thing I want to assist these girls with is continue with their education and for their own safety, stay away from these traditional cultural practices," she explains.

So how is education related to genital mutilation?  It gives them another option than early marriage; it opens their doors.

But in order to keep up with their classes, they need a safe place to stay on summer breaks, a library, a study room, and computer labs.  That's why Tengbom is turning to you.

"Our immediate need is just to have a safe place for them to live as they continue their education," she adds.

Tengbom says already this year, dozens of women have stepped forward asking for help.   Their goal right now is to build a safe home to house 40 women.

Voices of Hope has been running since 2003, but they say due to tough economic times as a result of recent droughts, some girls are being married off so their families can gain cattle.  

If you're interested in helping out, e-mail Rachael at: Shoenkai@aol.com or you can visit http://voicesofhope-kenya.blogspot.com.