Founder and President of Pastoralist Child Foundation (PCF), Sayydah Garrett was interviewed by Sandra Bookman on the ABC Television program, ‘Here and Now’, about the work of the organisation in Samburu County in the northern rift valley of Kenya. The Samburu pastoralists are semi-nomadic tribes who follow the water and the grass. ‘Cousins’ of the Massai, they have a beautiful culture but sadly some negative traditions too – some, such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), imported from other cultures hundreds of years ago.
The extensive interview particularly focusses on PCF’s work to eradicate FGM and child marriage. PCF Workshops explain the origins, taboos, myths, and harmful effects of such practices – and the importance of education. Sayydah talks about meeting Samburu warrior, Samuel Siriria Leadismo, and setting up the organization together.
(You’ll need to wait a few seconds to skip the television adverts).
Extracts from the interview
“So Female Genital Mutilation involves the removal, cutting, without anasthesia of the female clitoris… the same razor blade is used on multiple girls…
“It actually started in Egypt. There was a Pharoah about 3,000 years ago who wanted to suppress the female sexual desire and thought that by doing so it would prevent women from being unfaithful to their husbands…
“It’s extremely harmful psychologically, emotionally, especially physically… that include higher infant mortality… there’s nothing but harm… When girls are mutilated here they drop out of primary school, they’re forced to marry at 12, 13, 14 years old…
“Because the practice is so deeply engrained in communities, nobody has questioned this for hundreds and hundreds of years… We have to reach the elders… It’s a very patriarchal society & the elders rule. So when the elders understand why education is so important, they have second thoughts about mutilating their girls…
The overall message is: “to stop practicing this and let girls go to school. Imagine all the positive effects of educating your girls – educated girls are obviously healthier, they come back and help the communities move forward.”
FGM is practised in 29 countries throughout Africa and in the Middle East, though illegal in many including Kenya.
Worldwide, 200 million girls and women have undergone FGM – and millions more are at risk, including in the USA. Sayydah recently attended first summit in Washington DC to end FGM, where Senator Harry Reid was in attendance.
The mission of PCF is two fold – to eradicate FGM and child marriage, and to provide scholarships – financial help for high performing girl students to attend boarding schools.
PCF currently has 10 girls at boarding school, and has directly saved 540 from FGM – and many more through the message spreading by word of mouth.
To sponsor a girl at secondary boarding school costs 1500 dollars a year for tuition, exams, medical uniforms, bedding, and sanitary napkins.