Catherine Nyambura  from Rural Reporters reports on our ongoing work to eradicate FGM in the Samburu tribal regions of Kenya.

The Pastoralist Child Foundation is a grassroots organization based in Samburu, Kenya. Samburu people practice a nomadic a culture that is as enduring as it is exciting. While the Samburu tribe represents everything that is authentic about Kenya, it also has a share of misgivings. Most notable is the harmful cultural practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). The pastoralist child foundation implements program that aim to prevent FGM and eventually eradicate FGM, early forced marriages and other harmful practices within the Samburu and Maasai community. The scope of the Pastoralist Child Foundation’s advocacy includes the prevention of HIV, teenage pregnancy, child, early and forced marriage, resisting violence, reproductive health and sanitation and hygiene. The organization’s main tool for confronting these issues is the involvement of the community in educational workshops through which they disseminate comprehensive sexuality education information. The foundation also sponsors girls to enroll into school at the primary and secondary level and ensuring they have all basic needs such as sanitary towels to stay in school. The organization is co-founded by Sayyah Garret from America and Samuel Siriria Leadismo Co-founder and Director.

The Pastoralist Child Foundation has devised innovative and comprehensive approaches to prevent FGM in Samburu not only in the short-term, but also in the long-term. The organization’s approach has seen it widen the scope of its advocacy. It engages a broader range of stakeholders, including girls, who are victims of FGM, at risk of – health complications, some leading to death, early and forced marriage making a girl unable to finish her education and contribute to the economy. Mothers are engaged as they typically make the crucial decision that dictates when a girl is ready for the cut.

Through the active involvement of different stakeholders, the Pastoralist Child Foundation has managed to gain the broad support of the whole Samburu and maasai communities. The community understands that the Pastoralist Child Foundation is not out to change their beautiful culture, but only rectify the negative elements within the culture such as FGM and child, early and forced marriage.

Preventing FGM a pillar in comprehensive sexuality education

While a broad range of issues are addressed at the Pastoralist Child Foundation’s workshops, FGM remains a central part of its comprehensive sexuality education program. FGM in Samburu is usually a precursor to early marriages, gender based violence and exposure to HIV. FGM therefore not only exposes Samburu girls to HIV infection (through sharing unsterilized blades), but also grossly undermines the rights and ability of women and girls to exercise their bodily autonomy and make informed choices about their body, health and well-being.

Approximately 140 million women and girls around the world have suffered the harmful practice while 3 million girls are at risk of FGM in the African continent, the 2014 update of the Population Reference Bureau shows. The situation in Africa is further exacerbated by the fact that 39 percent of child, early and forced marriages happen in the continent. In Kenya 27% of women and girls have undergone FGM, with prevalence within the Samburu and Masaai communities approximately 78% according to UNICEF What paints a grimmer picture than these terrifying statistics are the painful personal accounts of girls at Pastoralist Child Foundation’s workshops.

The information that Samburu girls get at Pastoralist Child Foundation’s educational camps is crucial in providing them with the instruction, confidence and self-esteem required to reclaim control of their own sexuality and make decisions about their future. . Through comprehensive sexuality education, Samburu girls now have the power to protect their future, expressed through girls like Sara Lereesh whose dream is to become a lawyer for her to pursue justice for her community.

Comprehensive sexuality education should be part of quality education and curriculums should provide information that enables adolescents to make informed choices regarding their sexuality, how to handle challenges during adolescence and puberty and plan their lives. The information provided should be scientific and evidence based. It should also reinforce gender equality, respect for human rights and should be delivered by individuals trained on the importance of respect for value individual systems.

Young people leading the change

Young people, proven to be effective champions of change together with various teams working on sexual and reproductive health and rights advocacy have led campaigns advocacy campaigns, widespread across various levels of government and at the UN for the inclusion of comprehensive sexuality education in schools. A few milestones have been achieved, including the East and South Africa Ministerial commitment on Comprehensive Sexuality Education as well as various country level policies on the provision of life skills education and sex education through Education and Health ministries.

African governments are yet to agree on; the meaning of comprehensive sexuality education, the contents to be included in these programs and the policy language that will ensure the programs achieve desired results for adolescents’ reproductive health. A past review from UNESCO studies of 87 comprehensive sexuality education programs, including 29 in developing countries. The review found positive outcomes such as; decline in risky sexual activity, a reduction in the frequency of multiple sexual partners amongst sexually active adolescents, delayed sexual intercourse and a general increase in safe sex practices..

Parent’s support

Ironically, one of the barriers to accessing youth friendly sexual health services in Africa is parents. The Pastoralist Child Foundation makes continual engagement of parents a crucial component of their comprehensive sexuality programs. The organization works with parents and engages young men to ensure that all stakeholders get the message and are oriented on girls’ human rights.

Finally, comprehensive sexuality education by the Pastoralist Child Foundation is conducted in an area that is afflicted with scarcity. As a result, girls often lack the privilege of accessing basic amenities such as sanitary towels. In line with the Pastoralist Child Foundation’s focus on sanitation, the organization invests in washable sanitary towels to ensure that these girls who can’t afford sanitary towels do so. This allows these girls stay in school without unnecessary disruptions to their education.

By Catherine Nyambura | Rural Reporters

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Pastoralist Child Foundation (PCF) held its December Educational Camp for 72 girls in Samburu, Kenya. The venue was Lorubae Primary School, Archer’s Post, Samburu County, from November 30th through December 4th, 2014.

A Great Beginning
On the first day, November 30th, 72 girls (participants) arrived at Lorubae Primary School for PCF’s educational camp. We had a number of fantastic facilitators and volunteers:

The workshop began after the participants arrived and registered at 8.00 a.m. Pastoralist Child Foundation Director Samuel Siriria Leadismo welcomed everyone, asked the participants to enjoy the workshop and their stay at Lorubae Primary School.The following rules were established to guide and direct the workshop after the introduction of every girl and the school they attend.

Participant Ground Rules

  • A time keeper was identified
  • A welfare officer was identified
  • Phones to remain on silent mode
  • Respect for each other’s opinions
  • Punctuality maintained
  • Full participation by everyone
  • Any address made through the welfare officer or the chair

Welcome, from Samuel

“I, Samuel Leadismo, Director of Pastoralist Child Foundation welcome you to our workshop. It is my pleasure and honor to make these opening remarks on the empowerment program for our girls. Our mission is to create awareness for our girls and make them agents of change in this rapidly changing society. I welcome you to be part of this workshop and contribute your views for the sake of our sisters’ empowerment.

I hope that by the end of this workshop each of you will leave this place a changed person. My heartfelt regards to the esteemed facilitators for their punctuality and preparedness in delivering the information to our participants.

This workshop is officially open and any views which will help build our vulnerable groups in society are highly welcomed. Once again, thanks for attending this seminar in large numbers and keep the candle burning by empowering your friends who have not had an opportunity to be here.

Time for action is now…Let us all prevent and end violence in our society.”

Educational Workshop December 2014

Self-awareness

Facilitator: Severina Sangurikuri

Self-Awareness is having a clear perception of your personality, including strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation, and emotions. Self-awareness allows you to understand other people, how they perceive you, your attitude and your responses to them in the moment.

We might quickly assume that we are self-aware, but it is helpful to have a relative scale for awareness. If you have ever been in an auto accident, you may have experienced everything happening in slow motion and noticing details of your thought process and the event. This is a state of heightened awareness. With practice we can learn to engage these types of heightened states and see new opportunities for interpretations in our thoughts, emotions, and conversations.

Every individual needs to be fully aware of his/her personality. This helps with the well-being of an individual.

As you develop self-awareness you are able to make changes in the thoughts and interpretations you make in your mind.

Changing the interpretations in your mind allows you to change your emotions. Self-awareness is one of the attributes of Emotional Intelligence and an important factor in achieving success.

Self-awareness is the first step in creating what you want and mastering your personality. Where you focus your attention, your emotions, reactions, personality and behavior determine where you go in life. Having self-awareness allows you to see where your thoughts and emotions are taking you.

It also allows you to see the controls of your emotions, behavior, and personality so you can make changes you want. Until you are aware in the moment of the controls to your thoughts, emotions, words, and behavior, you will have difficulty making changes in the direction of your life. One must learn the core things in his/her life before teaching others.

Self-awareness is related to:

  1. Knowing your family
  2. Knowing your name
  3. Where you come from
  4. Knowing your sex.

Girls take part in workshop

HIV/AIDS & STDs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases)

Facilitator: Ali Njoroge

Mr. Ali Njoroge asked the participants if they knew about HIV/ AIDS transmission.

The participants listed the following:

  • Breastfeeding
  • Sexual intercourse
  • Use of unsterilized instruments
  • Traditional practices like circumcision

The lecturer informed the girls that HIV /AIDS is a pandemic that affects people through irresponsible behaviors. He explained the need for attitude change. Mr. Ali asked if the participants knew about PEP– Post Exposure Prophylaxis. This is a drug taken for 28 days for someone who has had sex with an HIV positive person. The side effects are so severe to the person who takes the drug.

A study of HIV infection among the youth was conducted and the results were shocking. HIV transmission among school teens (80%) showed they didn’t take charge of their health and so there was a need to change attitudes.

The second lecture was by Fabiano Lengees, a medical professional from Lerata Health Centre. He explained to the participants that the research conducted shows that the virus replicates – it changes. That is why it is difficult to get HIV drugs. He asked the participants if they know the signs and symptoms of HIV /AIDS.

The girls gave the following as the answers:

  • Being thin
  • Diarrhea
  • Night sweats
  • Shedding of hair
  • Vomiting
  • Skin rashes

HIV gives room for opportunistic diseases. Therefore, when your body’s immunity goes down, AIDS can set in and can lead to death.

The lecturer took the participants through several TB stages and advised the girls that should someone be infected with TB, one should comply with the medication prescribed. Failure to comply will lead to the TB virus changing to another stage, which is more deadly.

Girls seperated into groups

Teenage Pregnancy and Early Marriages

Facilitator: Severina Sangurikuri

Madam Severina asked the girls to define “teenage pregnancy.”

The girls gave the following answers:

  • Getting pregnant before maturity
  • Pregnancy between 14 to 19 (-21)

She informed the participants that young girls whose pelvic bones are under-developed suffer complications and sometimes death during childbirth. Early marriages result from early pregnancy, culture, poverty, and peer pressure. More discussions took place about the prevalence of early marriages in Samburu.

The girls were informed that forced early marriage is illegal.

This topic was further discussed in the Sexual Health & FGM [Female Genital Mutilation] workshop.

Democracy and Human Rights

Facilitator: Anastacia Leparporit

Madam Anastasia reviewed the previous day’s work with the girls; girls were seen actively participating. This topic also raised a few issues as the girls were really interested in knowing their rights.

The topic of the day was Democracy & Human Rights. Democracy originated from the Greek language – “Demo” means “Whole Citizen.”

Human rights and freedoms:

  • Right to life
  • Right to education
  • Right to worship
  • Right to ownership
  • Right to highest attainable standards of health

Right to Life: Every child / citizen has the right to life. The Kenyan constitution clearly states that citizens should not be killed by another human being. The government has full mandate in protecting the life of each person. Children’s issues have been fully addressed in some chapters.

Right to Education: Every child has the right to education. The government has made free and compulsory primary education. A parent who denies a child to attend school will be prosecuted.

Freedom of Worship: The Kenyan constitution guarantees rights to worship but restricts devil worship. This brought a lot of debates amongst the girls. Many girls wanted to know whether some cults like Illuminati are registered as it makes them scared.

Right to highest attainable standards of health: The constitution defines the right to health as the enjoyment of the highest attainable standards of physical and mental health.

Right of Justice: The Kenyan Constitution guarantees every citizen the right to a fair trial. Juvenile courts are responsible for taking issues related to children seriously. The government takes stern actions towards people who violate children.

Girls listen intently

Hygiene and Sanitation

Facilitator: Fabiano Lengees

Fabiano Lengees is a certified WASH doctor. WASH stands for “Water, Sanitation & Hygiene.” He invited the participants to brainstorm about sanitation and hygiene. The girls broke out into groups of three.

Personal Hygiene: This is complete personal cleanliness. It starts from the head down to the other parts of the body. The participants were made to understand that hygiene is very important for the prevention of diseases, including Ebola.

Importance of personal Hygiene

  • Good hand washing with soap promotes behavioral change through motivation, information and education.
  • For prevention of diseases – poor hygiene leads to poor health.
  • Personal grooming is very important.

Bedding: Bedding should be thoroughly washed/cleaned at least weekly and dried completely in the sun. If bedding is infested with mites and/or lice it should be boiled and ironed in order to kill the pests.

Food: Food stores, cupboards and tables should be kept clean. All food stuffs should be covered to prevent flies from gaining access to them. All food utensils should be clean and dry.

Environment: Every person should live in a clean environment. This should start at home and school.

Sexual Reproductive Health, FGM/C and Its Effects

Facilitator: Severina Sangurikuri

Group Questions

  1. What are some of the good cultural practices that you know?
  2. What are the procedures of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting?
  3. What are some of the harmful cultural practices you know?

The participants broke out into groups and wrote answers to the questions.

The following were listed as practices which the girls believed to be harmful:

  1. Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting
  2. Beading
  3. Abortion
  4. Early marriages
  5. Tattooing

A speaker at the workshop

Discussing Genital Mutilation

Joyce teaching the girlsSome girls confessed how inhumanely they were cut. Pauline Lengarta, a form one student narrated with a lot of pain how she was repeatedly cut four times, followed by the application of a salty substance on the already affected genital area. She couldn’t hide her painful emotions.

Joyce, a participant from Laikipia, was given the opportunity to teach the participants about sex education. The forum was open for discussion. This prompted the girls to share their various views and they came up with a slogan:

No, not now, not with you!!

The Chief from Kipsing, Isiolo County (standing with his daughter) told the guests that he says “NO TO FGM” and his daughter will not be mutilated.Joyce asked the girls why they agreed to have sex. Various answers were given and debated.

Madam Severina asked the girls to reflect on the issue and discuss the issue in groups. She read the Kenyan constitution dealing with children and the protocol of the Africa Charter on Human Rights and the Rights of Women in Africa.

Article 5 states: elimination of harmful practices; prohibition through legislation measures backed by section, of all forms of Female Genital Mutilation, scarification, medicalization and para-medicalization on FGM/C.

Madam Severina also read through the Bill of Rights – Chapter 4, section of the Kenya constitution. The bill states:

Every child must be protected from abuse, neglect, harmful cultural practices, all forms of violence, inhumane treatment and punishment, and hazardous or exploitative labor.

Types of FGM/Cut

  1. Suna
    Removal of the clitoris. This type originated in Egypt.
  2. Clitoridectomy
    The partial or entire removal of the clitoris and scraping of labia majora. This procedure was invented by Sudanese midwives.
  3. Infibulation
    It is the most extreme form of circumcision.
    Removal of the clitoris, the labia majora and joining the scraped sides of the vulva across the vagina by sewing.
    Small opening is left to allow the passage of urine and menstrual blood flow. Practiced in Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Somalia and other countries.

Causes of Rape

Participants were asked what they believed to be the causes of rape.

These answers were given by the girls:

  1. Drug abuse
  2. How girls dress
  3. To humiliate women
  4. To hurt the victim
  5. Poor social life when it comes to dating
  6. Demonic/Devilish values or practices (local language for “men behaving badly”)

The Last Day: Sharing & Mingling with Friends

Asha (writing) is a student whose education is sponsored by PCF. She’s a great role model at our educational camps. The last day of the four-day camp was a hub of activities where girls were given the opportunity to express any burning issues affecting them.

Girls were asked to mingle with friends and share experiences and the challenges they face in their daily lives.

Joyce, our visitor from Laikipia, was a good role model for the participants, as was Asha, a form 2 student whose education is fully sponsored by Pastoralist Child Foundation.

PCF-graduation-3

Graduation

The day started very well with a lot of excitement and many people came for the event. The participants had a lot to share with parents and visitors.

Many girls read poems, and acted out traditional plays with powerful FGM/C and early marriage themes. Speaker after speaker asked Pastoralist Child Foundation to continue extending its hand in empowering more girls.

Were so proud of each and every participant and grateful for a successful workshop! Until next timepeace & blessings to all!

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On March 15-18th, 2014, Pastoralist Child Foundation and the Fly Sister Fly Foundation partnered for an advocacy campaign in Samburu County.

Fly Sister Fly works directly with communities in Samburu and Rendile and focuses on the education and empowerment of girls, encouraging them to be agents of change. Fly Sister Fly was founded by Director, Vane Aminga, and helps rural girls attain education by connecting them with male and female university student mentors who nurture their dreams.

Welcomed and accompanied by Pastoralist Child Foundation to Lerata in Samburu District, both organizations went to a Lorora (big manyatta) to spend quality time with the communities there. We held interactive sessions on early marriages, female genital mutilation (FGM/C), challenges girls face in the pastoral nomadic community, poverty and lack of resources. Parents who attended agreed to be part of positive change by taking their children to school and we’ll be working with them to encourage them to keep their promises.

Both organizations then proceeded to Lerata Primary School where they empowered the young girls to be agents of change in their communities. The girls were given some necessary items to encourage them to stay in school. Items donated were stationery and sanitary napkins. Refreshments were enjoyed by all after the successful and exciting visit.

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Janet comes from a household where money is often unavailable for meeting basic family needs, so she worried about having the means to go to school. Like many girls in her community, Janet thought secondary school was out of reach. She is an extremely grateful young woman with a friendly smile, and has many ideas about the path she would like to follow in order to help her family and community.

We’re happy to share good news with you! 

Janet is our newest sponsored girl!   She’s 16 years old now attends high school (grade 9) in Isiolo. Janet is thrilled and so are we. We know she’ll do well and make her family and community proud!

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