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Samburu Girls Foundation

The Challenge

In the Samburu community of northern Kenya, girls as young as eight are subjected to marriage, female genital mutilation or a local custom known as “beading” which amounts to sanctioned rape by males of their community.

It is estimated that five girls out of seven are married before their 15th birthday, sometimes to men as old as their grandfathers. In preparation for marriage, they are forced to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM). These painful and dangerous practices leave girls with long-term physical and psychological damage. One of the main causes of death among young girls aged 15-19 in Kenya is a complication during pregnancy and childbirth.

Males between 13 and 35 are regarded as “morans” (warriors) who are tasked with protecting the community and as such, they are not allowed to marry. However, to fulfil their sexual needs, they are assigned a distant relative, usually a girl aged nine to 12, who is adorned with red necklaces in a practice called “beading.” The moran visits the girl in a specially built hut where they engage in sex. Children born out of such relationships are considered outcasts and bad omens. Girls who become pregnant by Morans are forced to undergo crude abortions using manual manipulation and herbs.

The Response

Samburu Girls Foundation (SGF) works in hard-to-reach rural areas in North-Eastern Kenya to rescue girls from child marriage, beading and female genital mutilation (FGM) and campaigns against harmful cultural practices. SGF works with families and community stakeholders to ensure that rescued girls are enrolled in school and are supported with the payment of school fees. It provides boarding and shelter facilities to those who need it.

SGF’s Annual Girls' Camp allows girls to understand their rights and stand up for themselves through the delivery of information and tools to resist FGM and early marriage. The organisation organises a weekly meet-up, The Girls’ Council, which reviews the activities of the centre and makes recommendations. The council consists of several committees including leadership, leisure activities and community service.

SGF advocates on behalf of girls based on a commitment to influence key decision-makers and implement policies to help improve the lives of girls and women. Since it was founded in 2008, the organisation has managed to rescue over 1,000 girls and is currently supporting 340 girls to attend schools in different parts of the country. SGF is a girl-centred grassroots organisation with a skilled and highly engaged Board and whose activities are designed by the girls.