Joyce is 10 years old. She is from Samburu, an area in northeastern Kenya known for its beautiful landscapes, abundant wildlife, and centuries-old culture. As part of Samburu tradition, Joyce had been forcefully married to a man old enough to be her grandfather. Luckily, before the wedding she was rescued and put in school. Today, she is in second grade and the brightest in her class.
Every year, hundreds of Samburu girls are subject to forced early marriage, female genital mutilation, and the practice of beading – a form of sexual bondage. This is why the Samburu Girls Foundation was founded: to help create a world where young women have the chance to grow up and lead fulfilling lives, without being held back by the harmful cultural traditions they had been born into.
When I was in fourth grade, I came to the shocking awareness of what happens to girls in Samburu when a friend of mine in sixth grade was forcibly taken out of school by her parents for an early marriage. Thankfully, a priest in the area got wind of it and came to her rescue. I then started thinking of how I too could help girls escape the same terrible fate that awaited them. After training as a nurse, I worked for USAID, and in 2008 I started rescuing girls from Samburu, Laikipia and Isiolo. Shortly afterwards, the Samburu Girls Foundation was born. To learn more about the history and mission of the Foundation, watch this segment from NTV Kenya.
The organization has so far rescued over 160 girls and placed them in elementary or secondary schools. The Samburu Girls Foundation envisions a world where men and women have equal rights and opportunities, where even the most disadvantaged girls are able to realize their full potential through education and empowerment.
I joined the Acumen East Africa Fellows Program so I could grow as a leader and in turn develop the Samburu Girls Foundation to benefit more young girls. As a woman leader working in a very traditional community, challenging the status quo can be difficult. The fellowship gave me the strength, skills, and support I needed to create positive social change and unlock my leadership potential. Over the course of the year, I have participated in seminars on adaptive leadership, design thinking, project management, and financial skills – all of which have been critical towards building the Samburu Girls Foundation into what it is today.
My next project is to build the Maralal Rescue Center, which will house girls who have been rescued. The center will act as a rehabilitation facility that will equip the girls with the necessary skills before they reintegrate with society. To finance the project, the Samburu Girls Foundation will be holding a fundraising event at the Serena Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya on Friday 9 August 2013 at 6:00pm.To learn more about the event or how to support the Samburu Girls Foundation, please visit www.samburugirlsfoundation.org or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.