Yaya Jillio

Yaya Jillio is fragile, shy, and very humble. But she’s also more powerful than any giant! Like many girls of the Karayu culture, Yaya could have been offered up for marriage by age 10 or 12. Instead, her parents arranged for her to wed a 65-year-old man when she was just 14. Yaya told us she knew in her heart that that was wrong.

Yaya is a true hero for so bravely doing what felt right to her.

This tiny girl mustered the courage, audacity, and inner strength to say no. She said no to her parents, no to thousands of years of tradition, no to the elders. She ran away from home three times, the last time living without food for a week until she heard about the girls’ hostel that the Gudina Tumsa Foundation (GTF) and Westlock Rotary had built. Yaya sought refuge there and began attending school.

Yaya was reunited with her parents after GTF intervened and negotiated on her behalf to stop the arranged marriage. She evolved into a beautiful young woman, inside and out. Because people like those at GTF and Westlock Rotary cared, they took the time to provide her with the water of education and empathy, and the compassion and fertilizer of hope and love. But it is Yaya herself who is the true hero for so bravely doing what felt right to her.

Without the girls’ hostel, Yaya likely wouldn’t be here today. It was later discovered that the man she was to marry had full-blown AIDS.

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