I will miss Samburu! These were my words when we arrived in Nairobi City on Monday after a 7-hour drive.
We left for Samburu Girls Foundation on a Saturday morning, which is the culture for the Rotaract Club of Karura every Jamhuri day weekend. This is a holiday in Kenya on 12th December.
So, my friend Richard, for three consecutive days kept insisting that I attend the trip but I was too psyched for my church concert then once he explained to me that they were visiting a Girls Rescue Centre, then my interest shot up by 100%. I googled http://www.samburugirls.foundation/ and got all the info I needed to convince me to travel along.
Initially, I was torn between attending my church concert and doing this adventure to Samburu. I can’t believe I was confused of the two. I mean, the experience with Samburu will forever remain. I learnt the meaning of giving without expecting and there’s no higher satisfaction/fulfilment than that.
For some reason, I have always wanted to go to Maralal since I had a campus friend who said he came from there. And this now became the perfect opportunity.
So, we got to SGF (Samburu Girls Foundation), the love there, issa lot. You get hugs from the approximately 40girls, who are all so excited to receive visitors. Did random games, had our supper and had a very interesting q&a with the management which really helped shed light on our very many wonders and questions.
Truth is, culture is not a choice when you are born. You are born into a culture.
About the culture,
Among the many cultures of the Samburu and related tribes, these are the main negative ones against the girl child that led Josephine to opening the rescue center. (More on Josephine and the foundation in next page)
- FGM (Female Genital Mutilation)
Literally, that’s what the action means, its circumcision for the girl child. They believe it keeps their sexual urge low so that there’s no chance of them cheating on their husband. Lately, FGM is mostly done at night without the girl being warned prior. She is held forcefully and her mouth closed she doesn’t raise an alarm.
The young girls are given beads, put them on their necks and relatives can have sex with them. The girls are not allowed to get pregnant. Because it is an abomination. In case they get pregnant, crude abortion is done and if they give birth then the child is given/thrown away.
- Early marriage
As young as 8 years old, a child gets married off and in return the father gets the dowry in form of sheep and cows.
The drive by the fathers to marry off their daughters is to gain wealth in form of cattle.
They believe the girlchild is not to be educated, instead she is to be trained how to be a wife from very young age. If she gets married off, and doesn’t know how to cook, the husband beats her up.
The mothers do not support early marriages and if they dare object, then the husbands beat them. So what they do is warn their little ones and advise them to run away to a rescue center or the police station where they are safe from marriage.
When there’s a girl being married off, the rescue center receives this info from secret informants; could be the mother, relatives or neighbors who do not support this. Then the rescuers show up to get the girl, mostly with the law enforcers i.e. the police
MOTIVATION TOWARDS THIS CULTURE IN MY VIEW
- I know, those of us raised with a different culture shiver, get angry about these Samburu cultural practices. But that is just a way of life for the Samburu and all other communities that practice them.
To them, marrying the really young girls of around 8 years is their way, it is what they have been taught by their forefathers, is what they know is right. They say that the young wife will grow up eventually.
They are polygamous too and if I (23 years) were to get married according to their culture, my husband would be a 70-year-old man and I would be the 10th wife or so.
- So, you find that there’s male domination and sort of worshipping since men are not to be questioned for their decisions.
- Sex and wealth are the major drivers just like they are for most all else humanity.
I must say; It is one thing to hear/read, it’s another to experience or hear from a main source.
THE SAMBURU GIRLS FOUNDATION
This amazing foundation was started by Josephine Kulea, a bubbly soul with a huge heart, love for her community and a vision for the young girl child who is forced into these cultural practices. Josephine works together with Wanjiru Wahome and Samuel Gachagua who are the Programs Manager and Liaison and Girls Development Officer respectively.
Once they rescue the girls, they get them to school, private schools mostly to ensure quality education for the girls.
The foundation runs on donations as you will see in the website;
Day 2 had us having talks with the girls in small groups
, a chapati party,
then a fashion show and a dance off. The girls can cook man! And dancing has got to be their favorite pass time.
Day 3 we went to fetch firewood, quite the distance, about30 minutes away. The weather is quite extreme; very sunny during the day which left some of us who ignored the sunscreen and head cap advice with sunburns and at night it can get really cold and windy.
Since this was our last day, we were invited to see morans dance as they celebrated their graduation into manhood. They are now called morans and they can now marry the young ones as young as 8years. They then had Josephine give them a talk on the laws but we did not stay long enough to see that since we had to leave.
The girls are really good at beadwork and I made sure to get myself a souvenir with my nickname MKARE which she beaded as MKAIRE, the Samburu accent in her I guess 😊. She fixed it in roughly 2 hours, talk about skill! It is a source of income for them. So whenever you visit, be sure to get some fixed for you.
We travel for self-gratification, it is okay, but occasionally, travel to make a difference
Pics by Dennis Ochieng
For more info on this, visit; http://kipainoi.com/ .He features indigenous communities in Kenya.