Thok Makuol was dispossessed of the comfort of a typical life. Born at Kakuma Refugee camp 23years ago, Mr Makuol, a South Sudanese national, had to endure lots of suffering while he was growing.
Not only was he living in a bad environment, but his basic needs were hard to come by. He was exposed to poor health, insecurity and sickness brought by overcrowding in the refugee camps.
But when he was 10, he was lucky enough to get a sponsorship back in his native South Sudan where he somehow managed to go through his primary education.He then came back to Kenya and enrolled at Tumaini School where he got his secondary education. His success caught the eyes of an Australian, Ian Smith who has been sponsoring his university education at Kabarak University.
But Makuol, who is a Fourth Year in actuarial science student, was always disturbed by the sorry life of girls back in camp. “Girls are deprived of education and a chance to grow like others. They are not recognized as human beings and they suffer inferiority complex,’’ he says.In camps, girls age below 15 are married off to old men who mistreat them. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is an ordinary practice here.
“They are treated like properties and some are married off without their knowledge,’’ he says.In 2017, he went back to Kakuma on a random visit to explore and found out that things had change, for worse.“I discovered that a 10-year-old girl had been married to an old man. The fact that people took it lightly scared me and I decided to do something about it,’’ he said. When he returned to Kabarak University, he mobilized fellow students and told them of the suffering girls endure in Kakuma.
Touched by his story, his friends raised money to buy the girls geometrical sets.“We collected more than 100 geometrical sets and clip boards and with the contribution, I visited some schools in Kakuma where we distributed the set to Class Eight candidates,” he said.
“I felt that if women are empowered, they can fight for themselves and break through the shackle on men in the camps” he said.He has also partnered with Lutheran World Federation, a humanitarian organization, to counsel girls in the camps. “Those privilege in the society are not aware that there are girls who are suffering, while those suffering have embraced their pain not knowing that they have right that protect them,” he said. This led him to Victor Kirui, a computer science student at Kabarak, on a way to create awareness on the same.
“We felt that the world should know that girls in refugee camps still suffer at the hands of brutal men,” he said.
With Kirui and another friend called Fiona Chebet, the three put up a website. They named it Refugee to Save a Nation and they hope to achieve gender equality using it.