Monday, March 15, 2021

Historic Moment for African Girls

Annamaria on Monday

In order to write the first two books in my Africa series, I had to spend countless hours over several years researching the cultures and history of Kenya.  But it was not until I started work on the third, The Blasphemers that I learned about the treatment of young girls.  It horrified me.  All the more so because, though British missionaries had been combatting it since 1906, among some groups, it was still common practice.

Then three years ago - just as The Blasphemers was launching, I met a grassroots warrior against FGM and forced marriage, a Samburu woman who is a teacher and gifted leader and organizer.  The Samburu are a branch of the Maasai tribe, which has clung to its old ways with remarkable tenacity.  In some ways this is a good thing, but its treatment of girls is criminal, and progress against these hideous practices has, until now, been spare.

But good news came in the past two weeks. Here is the text of an email that I received from Sarah on 22 February:


Declaration to End FGM in Samburu

Hi Patricia.

How are you and how are things the going?

We are doing well. The pandemic is slowing down and not many cases are reported.

Am still planning for a phone call or a skype with your friends soon when I get the appropriate signal area.


In June 2019 our president made a commitment to end FGM by 2022.

The coming Tuesday 2nd March the Samburu community—elders, women, girls, boys, leaders and Kenya’s President Kenyatta will make a historic Declaration to end FGM and Child marriage among the Samburu community.


Girls and women can help take the message of ending FGM to their fellow students and youth. I am looking into a future free FGM.


This event takes place at Kisima centre in Samburu 90km from where we live.

It will be officiated by President Kenyatta.


 I have mobilized 10 girls and 10 women to take them to the event. Am therefore requesting for some funds to enable me, the girls and the women to attend this historic event.


A message over the weekend corrected the date.  President Kenyatta had postponed the event to coincide with Kenya’s celebration of international Women’s Day over the following weekend.  The meeting would be on Friday, March 5. With strict instructions from me to send us LOTS of photos, Sarah went into high gear.  Here is her report on what happened at the event: 


Hello Patricia,

I am glad to report back that we made a successful trip to Lake Kisima to attend a historic declaration to end FGM and early child marriage among the Samburu community which was officiated by the President of Kenya.

Please find some of the attached pictures in the document. Thank you and may God bless you and your friends.


Lots of love,


Sarah Lesiamito


After breakfast, going to venue, awaiting president




The shuttles we hired for transportation

Elders who signed the Anti-FGM Agreement on behalf of the community



Local Administrators who attended the occasion with us




One of the surgeons that we took with us to the historic declaration to end FGM

(AA Comment: I believe this is an enkamuratani, a woman who performs FGM.  I think

 it was brilliant of Sarah to bring her along.)

With the school-going girls

Me and one of the local leaders talking to the girls

Women awaiting the President’s arrival


Arrival of the President


The President, local leaders, and the community (Kenyatta is in khaki)


Screen shot of Sarah’s final submission regarding the event


I am so proud of Sarah, of how she took advantage of the opportunity, of her leadership and organizational instincts.  The declaration of this month is a huge step forward, but its implementation will be a test and a challenge.  I will be conferring with Sarah on her progress and her needs, and will find ways to support her efforts. I have formed a group of highly capable women who will be joining in this work.

It is a privilege and a joy for me to have a small role in this effort.  The smiles on the faces of girls free to stay in school, to have their own dreams, and at least a chance at making them come true! They make me do the happy dance.  I was the first woman among my own female forebears who had an opportunity to follow such a path. I credit my mother with that change.  She was not allowed to dream for herself.  She dreamed for me.  


I don't know how much of the 21st Century I will see, but in this way and in many others, it seems to be bringing women out of the shadows, away from the second-class position we have so long occupied.  I believe I am looking at the Century of the Woman. All the world will be better off if I am right.  Of that I am certain.


  1. A very worthy cause indeed, Annamaria--ending this assaultive custom. Well done.

    1. I love your word “assaultive,” Kwei. That anyone has the right to decide on the quality of the rest of ANYONE’s life seem the worst kind of violence—physical and psychological. Won’t is be wonderful when no one has to suffer so?

  2. You have a lot to be proud of, sis, and the Samburu women are blessed to have you in their corner.