Teresa June Webb discovered her life’s passion nearly seven years ago. Webb, like many, knew from a young age that what she most wanted to do as an adult involved helping others.
The self-described “GRIT” (girl raised in the South) has always enjoyed the outdoors, often spending days in nature hiking and backpacking through trails and mountains in Georgia and beyond. Aside from nature and school, Webb most enjoyed being involved in her local church. It was a combination of her youthful interests and compassionate spirit that ultimately led Webb to become a missionary.
“I have been in Kenya for seven years,” Webb said while on a rare visit home to Coweta. “Within the first year I discovered the truth about what really happens to so many young girls in the country.”
The truth, according to Webb, is that young Kenyan women are treated as though they are not human beings. Instead, the girls are property – property of their family and, ultimately, property of the men they will be given to in marriage. Girls in Kenya are considered to be “women” at the age of 10 and above.
“The majority of the young women are viewed as goats or cows,” Webb said. “At a very young age the girls are sold just like cattle. If the young woman is in school, her education immediately comes to an end.”
Webb explained that the men in the village are much older, and often have several other wives. The men simply approach the girl’s parents and make a deal to take on the girl as a wife.
“The girl will then become a slave to her husband,” Webb said. “If the husband has other wives, the girl will become a slave to those women as well.”
According to Webb, almost no one in Kenya is able to assist the young women who are traded or sold for marriage. Often, the girls run away from their new homes and husbands and must fend for themselves, unable to return to the families that gave them away.
“Some girls will attempt to return to their communities and will be harassed and shunned, even by their families,” said Webb. “Sometimes the young women will commit suicide, often by hanging or drinking poison.”
This, unfortunately, is not the only suffering hundreds of young women must endure in Kenya, according to Webb. There is also the inhumane village tradition of genital mutilation (FGM).
“The cultural practice of FGM has continued in many villages in Kenya,” said Webb.
The practice is a form of female circumcision and is considered an important rite of passage for young females in the country. The circumcision is part of a ceremony that initiates young women into adulthood and into marriage. A marriage that is, most often, forced on girls at a young age. The practice is deeply ingrained in the culture, and though FGM is against Kenyan law, women who have not been circumcised often are not considered for marriage, or will bring much less profit to the family if married.
“Many of the Kenyan people do not even know why they do [FGM],” said Webb. “It is simply a long-standing cultural practice. Many believe a girl must endure this or she will not physically or spiritually become a woman.”
FGM has resulted in birth complications for the young women in many parts of Kenya. The practice is also known to spread disease and infection. Often the procedure is performed using unsterilized equipment used on several girls during group rituals. The practice can cause heavy bleeding and can ultimately lead to death.
According to Webb, there are very few rescue homes for the girls of Kenya who manage to escape the torture they are forced to undergo. In fact there are fewer than five shelters in the whole country.
“I have to do something,” Webb said. “There is no one there to help these girls escape the dangers they will face.”
Webb has decided to build a rescue home for girls in Nakuru, Kenya. And to raise money for the endeavor, Webb is taking a hike – a lengthy one.
On Oct. 3, Webb will begin a 100-mile hike along a portion of the Appalachian Trail to raise awareness and money for the young women in Kenya she considers to be family. Webb will hike alone, except for the other AT hikers she will undoubtedly meet along the way, and will camp along the trail or in group shelters.
The hike will take nearly a month, Webb predicts, and she is simply hoping that her journey will bring awareness.
“The girls that run away from their own lives – often they will walk for days, hiking, sometimes without shoes on their feet,” said Webb. “If I have to hike 100 miles to save one life, I am willing to do that.”
Teresa June Webb is the founder and developer of Desert Rose Ministries, a missionary project taking place in Kenya that includes preaching, praying with, ministering to, and caring for the people of Kenya. Learn more about Desert Rose Ministries and about the upcoming hike by visiting www.teresajunewebb.com.
Recently a friend of Webb, Cowetan Caitlin Crane, has made the decision to sponsor a fundraising event for Webb’s cause and for the upcoming hike. Crane, daughter of Senator Mike Crane, is the Founder and CEO of just1 (www.just1.org), a non-profit organization aimed at combating child slavery and sexual exploitation, particularly in the United States. Visit www.just1.org for details.
JUST1 has partnered with Teresa June and her non-profit, Desert Rose Ministries, to help rescue girls from these horrors and place them in a safe house where they will be loved and cared for.
To help make this vision a reality, click below and donate. Thank you!