Being born in Samburu County as a girl-child is an outright guarantee that living one’s dream to achieve one’s life goals is almost zero.
The Samburu culture infringes on a girls’ right to education and better health since most girls undergo Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) early in life and eventually married off to old men in exchange for a herd of cows.
Infact after birth, the girls are quickly beaded(booked) which allows families with young boys to start paying dowry early in life.
1….Beading is the practice where a Moran presents beautiful red beads to a girl within his clan with whom he has sexual pleasure at will.
He will never marry this girl because she is from the same clan. Once a girl is beaded, a Manyatta is built separately for her to make it easy for the Moran to gain access to her.
2…In the event of conception, the girl may be forced to abort or the new born killed at birth or given away.
3…Some girls lose their lives, especially during the crude abortions where the abdomen of the pregnant girl is pressed until the foetus dies. There is also spread of HIV since the girls do not use protection or contraceptives.
Shockingly, girls as young as seven years old are often married off to men way older to be their fathers or grandfathers! Even more astonishingly, the girls are circumcised on the morning of their wedding. They bleed into their new homes.
Some men will wait for the girl to heal the wounds FGM inflicts on them, but others do not.
These girls’ education comes to a halt. They are expected to bear children, build houses, rear and manage domestic livestock in addition to providing food for the family.
Female genital mutilation comes with stigma as the girls can get fistula, have difficult childbirth, infections, and anemia leading to death and experience reduced sexual pleasure.
However, despite the mess that FGM has created previously, the youth are against the practice. Most are developing the conviction that the way to stop the vice is to marry within their age set.
The women are also standing up against their husbands marrying very young girls as second or third wives.
The new Kenyan Constitution 2010 clearly outlaws FGM but the staunch traditionalist from this community view it as an imposition from the west. FGM prevalence in this county stands at 86%, second highest in Kenya after the Northern Kenya Somalis, 93%.
Pastrolists Child Foundation Co founded by Samuel Leadismo is one of the few non-governmental organizations that has engaged the community through community discussions and dialogue sessions on the effects of beading and Early marriages.
Additionally, the organization is working with both men and women to pass information to the public on the dangers of FGM and importance of girl child education.
There are also aspects of training women and girls incorporated to help identify and exploit existing Income generating opportunities. The initiative is also keen on improving health by identifying women with fistula and referral for treatment.
Such efforts by community anchored organizations are a harbinger for a better future for girls and women in Samburu.
Samburu Girls Foundation initiated by Josephine Kulea is also helping in creating awareness on the effects of FGM,Rescuing Samburu girls and sending them to school.
The Communiy live just north of the equator in the Rift Valley province of Northern Kenya. The Samburu are closely related to the Maasai. They speak a similar language, derived from Maa.
They are semi-nomadic pastoralists. Cattle, as well as sheep, goats and camels, are of utmost importance to the Samburu culture and way of life. The Samburu are extremely dependent on their animals for survival.
Their diet consists mostly of milk and sometimes blood from their cows. The blood is collected by making a tiny nick in the jugular of the cow, and draining the blood into a cup. The wound is then quickly sealed with hot ash. Meat is only consumed on special occasions.
The Samburu diet is also supplemented with roots, vegetables and tubers dug up and made into a soup.