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Choosing education over child marriage
02:56 - Source: CNN

Editor’s Note: Faith Cherop defied traditional gender roles in rural Kenya by convincing her family that girls’ education is more important than early marriage. This is her story in her own words, written in English, her third language. Founded with a mission to fight child labor, WE Charity is a global organization that empowers people to take action on issues they care about.

CNN  — 

My name is Faith Cherop. I am 23 years old. I come from a family of 15 members; eight brothers, six sisters and a father. When I was starting schooling, my father wasn’t supportive of my education. In our community, they favor that boy children receive an education.

When I completed my primary education, I had to stay at home because my father couldn’t afford secondary school and even if he could, he would only take my brothers. He said I had to stay at home or get married. In my community, child marriage has been practiced for a long time but lately the government has stepped up efforts to stop it. Anyone found engaging in this is prosecuted.

Read more from the CNN Freedom Project

At that time, WE Charity had started a secondary school sponsoring girls in our communities. I wished and hoped that I would be among those who would be chosen to join Kisaruni All Girls Secondary School that year, but unfortunately, I was not among them. I felt so bad, discouraged and hopeless.

I stayed at home for some weeks until one day I decided to go to Kisaruni on my own. I met with the Principal, Madam Carol, and pleaded my case for a chance to join the high school. She was very understanding, nice and kind. The following day I received an admission letter from Kisaruni. I couldn’t sleep at night because of the joy that I had.

Faith Cherop as a high school student at Kisaruni All Girls Secondary School

After I started high school, my father came to realize that a girl child’s education is very important. Educating one girl is like educating a whole community. My father started being sensitive to my education. He would often visit me in school to give me advice and encourage me.

Education is the key to success

In high school, I realized my talent for public speaking and became school president. Now, I have a voice in my family and the entire community. I always knew that after graduating high school I would go to university. After graduating university, I planned to come back to my family and my community and help them by making their life better. Education is the key to success. Especially educating girls.

As class leader and valedictorian, Faith Cherop delivers a speech at her college graduation.

I have now realized that dream, too. I was lucky to attend WE College to study Tourism Management. I learned a lot that enabled me to get the required skills and knowledge in the industry of tourism. I gained confidence and communication skills and I am now an empowered young woman.

After graduating from college I got an internship placement at Hilton Nairobi, learning customer service. As an ambassador at Hilton, I welcomed guests, took orders and prepared bills, using the skills I learned at college.

I chose to study tourism because it’s my passion to interact with guests from different parts of the world and to make new friends. To make them feel at home while in Kenya and let them know of our stories that I believe are magical. I completed my final internship placement last year and am now searching for a job closer to home.

Education means increasing chances of getting a job and being successful to eradicate poverty, ignorance and economic imbalance in society. This will help us to make the world a better place for everyone to be.

What freedom means

Freedom to me means being allowed to go to school and getting a chance to study, to get empowered through education, graduating and getting a good job to sustain my family.

The WE College School of Tourism, class of 2019.

Freedom is being allowed to do what you believe in, something that would be a positive impact to the whole society. I feel freedom in me since I did get the education that I really yearned for. I am happy that my community now knows the importance of a girl’s education and that my family is proud of me. There is now freedom for education.

I now wonder what my life would have been if I couldn’t get the freedom to go to school. I would have been married and have kids with no future. My dreams would have been shuttered completely. But now, I am a happy young woman.