As a girl in primary school, we spent a lot of time anticipating the coming of our periods. There were hush hush talks about how to use a pad and how to dispose one. Every stomach ache was attributed to the maybe coming of the big sign of womanhood. I never really did think of anything else apart from periods being a natural occurrence my mum had promised to walk me through. In some Samburu families however, some girls are terrified to have the first period Having the first period means you are now able to conceive a child. And this means you can now safely be married off. Regardless of your age, or dreams, or whether you are emotionally equipped to take care of a little human being.
Now imagine you are a Samburu girl. You just turned thirteen. Your brother, who you are sure is as smart as you are is allowed to go to school while you tend to your parents’ goats. But this is the life you know. There really is nothing to compare to. All the other girls tend to the goats, and fetch water.
When a moran gets to be of an age where he wants sex, a girl is picked for him. This girl can be of any child bearing age. And she is beaded. Now beading means the Moran literally puts a set of beads on the girls neck to mark his territory. The moran gets to have sex with this girl whenever he pleases. But the catch is that this girl is not allowed to get pregnant. There is a lack of provision of condoms, so its not that the moran will bring condoms every time he humps this girl to avoid her getting pregnant.
On the occasion that she does get pregnant, the girl is to abort the fetus. And since there really is no access to medical facilities the older women have to push the baby out of the girls stomach by going as far as using their knees to abort the foetus. And when all the parts are out, she can go back to being the moran’s girl. When the moran finally wants to settle down, he gets another fresh girl to marry, abandoning the beaded girl.
And as I listened to these true stories, we had one girl pointed out to us as a girl who had been beaded. Now this girl was eight years old, beautiful skin and she was as much a child as a child could be. She had been rescued and brought to the Samburu Girls Foundation and she got to the centre while still wearing her beads.
I think sometimes, we should abandon our sense of culture, especially it it makes the community poorer. This community would be much richer if they educated their young ones, and allowed them to come back and grow the society. Build better houses, buy more livestock and have a voice and a sense of self identity.