Imagine you were born a girl, and everyone around you is happy that you have come into this world. Your big, clear eyes are pure and innocent; you may perhaps be scared, not knowing what will become of you while you are on God’s good earth, but your parents, if both of them are present and accepting of you, seem exhilarated that their bundle of joy made it safely into this world.
You are scared, but the only thing you know how to do is cry and cling onto a being you discover to be your mother. If you are lucky, she may sing lullabies to you, and you are reassured that everything is going to be alright as long as mommy is around.
You grow up, crawl, walk, talk, and make friends. In your innocence, you don’t know the difference between wealth and poverty, but you are content that that is how life should go, because that is the only exposure that you have been subjected to.
If you have older sisters, female cousins, aunts, or even female neighbours, you may see them at the function at their place of residence. The visitors at the event claim that they have come to collect something that belongs to them. They are allowed. And they leave behind a few livestock. Looking at the girl’s face, you wonder why she is crying while visitors are around. The older women ask the young girl to control herself. But her wails and pleas fall on deaf ears because there’s no going back. This seems very confusing and unsettling, but you can’t do anything about it.
FACING THE FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION KNIFE!
One fine day after you turn eight years of age, the older ladies you saw at the event come to your home and ask to meet with you. In obedience, you follow them for a chat. Your parent or guardian gives them the go-ahead. These women inform you about something to do with a rite of passage, which involves getting you circumcised in order that you may get married.
They tell you that it is a good thing, but then you remember how other girls almost bled to death, and the eerie screams from the pain they must have been going through still ring in your mind. You don’t know how to react because you are reassured that your own mother, your grandmothers, and every female in your community, which is located in the wilderness, MUST pass through this ritual. They also tell you that if you don’t pass through the ritual, you will become an outcast, a curse, or, worse still, an abomination to society. You don’t have a choice and for fear of becoming a social pariah, you give in.
BREEDING GIRLS FOR SEXUAL PURPOSES.
A big part of Samburu tradition is “Aisho-ntoyie saen,” which means putting beads on young girls. Young Samburu morans (warriors) between the ages of 15 and 35 who worry that they won’t be able to marry get to practice on a select number of girls.
Red traditional beads are made into necklaces for the girls at the tender age of 9. These girls are then matched with their male cousins. The girls must adorn their necks with the red beads, indicating to all and sundry that they are only “engaged” for the sexual gratification of the young morans.
Outside of their manyattas (house), the beaded girl’s mother builds a hut where the male cousin can get sexual access to the beaded girl whenever he wants. And woe unto the beaded girl who “decides” to get pregnant! If this happens, an abortion is immediately performed, and the girl is sent back into circulation once she heals. This is because pregnancy can only be seen as a curse!
Also, this set of girls never get married to any man from their community because they have one job: to sexually gratify the morans! Why? The community has already decided what their task and fate will be.
Shortly after she was born, Rosillah, or Rose, as she is popularly known at the SGF Center, lost her mother to illness. Rose, the third-born in a family of nine, was left to play the role of mother of the house at the tender age of six! Her father sent her older brothers out to work as herdsmen and engage in manly activities away from their home.
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is outlawed in Kenya, but is still common in the areas of Samburu, Isiolo, Kajiado, Marsabit, and Laikipia. Samburu County is one of the leading communities practicing this archaic and outlawed custom on young girls.
As is customary, when she turned eight, Rose was scheduled for circumcision, and soon after, child marriage! The man who was her supposed spouse was forty-two years old! The man would beat her senseless for not performing her duties as his wife and mother of the house! He never cared that she was just an innocent and naive child who was supposed to be in school and that all this was new to her. The man converted her into a milk vendor and the money-maker of his kingdom!
The young girl was scared of opening herself up to this stranger who, unbeknownst to her, would be her future mother figure. It was tough convincing the young girl that there was more to life than the two-week marital hell she was going through.
It is in these cultures that you live in, follow to the letter and die in them if you are born there. The only crime Rose committed was to be born there.
HOPE AT LAST
But with patience and through the right legal channels, girls are rescued through a very delicate but legal process. The Samburu Girls Foundation (SGF) is one organization on the ground that rescues girls from these cruel practices and gives them hope.
It is here that eMentoring Africa, a not-for profit organization that has partnered with SGF to mentor the girls, found young Rose recuperating from her woes.
Rose had been plucked from her woes as she was attempting to sell milk at a shopping Center in the village one fine morning. She was adorned in the traditional jewellery that announced that even as a child she was someone’s wife!
Once after she was introduced and inducted at SGF Center, young Rose was taken through an accelerated education curriculum in the public system.
Fast forward: Rose cleared primary school and joined a national high school due to her good grades. She scored a B in her Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE), which guarantees her placement in a national university in Kenya.
Young Rose, now a teenager, is keen on studying information Technology as a course in college. While waiting to enrol in university, Rose met with an angel of mercy who, just like some of her counterparts, was introduced to eMentoring Africa.
The organization took her through one of their programs and empowered her to take charge of her life by registering a bakery business that will be established in Nairobi. Rose will be running the business with two other girls from the centre, and eMentoring Africa will continue to hold their hands in their empowerment journey.
FOR THE LOVE OF TECHNOLOGY.
In the year 2022, Rose participated in Technovation 2022 Challenge. She and her team created the EndCut App that advocates against FGM. This initiative was introduced to the SGF by eMentoring Africa in a bid to get more girls not just at the SGF but worldwide, to embrace the world of technology. The SGF girls’ participation in this international tech challenge was made possible by eMentoring Africa who equipped the SGF ICT Center and got Rose and her team mates motivated enough to win the challenge.
Technovation is an international nonprofit organization that helps girls learn the technology skills they need to become leaders, creators, and problem-solvers. One of their programs is called Technovation Girls. It helps girls between the ages of 8 and 18 learn the skills they need to do well in tech companies and become tech leaders. With the help of volunteer teachers and their own parents, the participants work in teams to code mobile apps that solve problems in the real world.
DEFEND THE WEAK AND THE FATHERLESS; UPHOLD THE CAUSE OF THE POOR AND THE OPPRESSED.Psalm 82:3.
By changing and helping one child at a time, organizations like eMentoring Africa, the SGF, the Malkia Initiative, WEMA, well-wishers and mentors, and other organizations are slowly making pastoralist communities see the evils behind practicing FGM, child marriage, and beading.
Through education, information, and community empowerment, the Samburu community is awakening to civilization. They have no choice but to catch up with the advancing world!
You, yes you can also help prevent and protect another child from the life of hopelessness, trauma, and rejection. Not many of the girls at the SGF want to talk about their experience since they are still haunted by their past. You can help through your time, skills, talents, presence or resources and dedicating these toward the good cause.
OTHERS WHO ESCAPED THE CULTURE.
Yes, you read that right. Philip is of the male gender. How did he land at the Samburu Girls’ Foundation premises?
Philip is a teenager whose only mistake was to rescue his own sister from the hands of his community. And when his father discovered that he sent his sister to SGF, he was kicked out of his home. Philip also refused to participate in the beading culture against someone else’s daughter.
By God’s grace, the homeless young man was received by SGF, taken to school, and is on his way to joining the University of Nairobi for studies in Economics.
While at the SGF Centre, Philip got a chance to speak to one mentor, who introduced him to eMentoring Africa, a not-for-profit organization that coaches youth and teaches soft skills. The organization combines mentoring with advice, principles, and personal development for school-age and adolescent children (upper primary and high school) and skills transfer and job connections for youth who are old enough to work.
Through the training, Philip is also on his way to receiving a grant from eMentoring Africa that will enable him to register, own, and run a business.
TO MENTOR, PARTNER WITH, OR DONATE TO THESE ORGANIZATIONS, PLEASE GET IN TOUCH THROUGH:
- 1. eMentoring Africa: To change a child’s life, open this link
Story by Wanjiru Elizabeth -MCIM.