In Samburu County Kenya, 90% of women have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM) and 38% were married before they were 18 years old. This is because the Samburu tribe – nomadic pastoralists whose way of life revolves around their cattle – traditionally practice both FGM and child marriage.
The two practices are linked. When a girl (typically between 8-15 years old) undergoes FGM, she is considered ready to be married off, often to a much older man. Girls are also expected to drop out of school once they are married, which is reflected in the low enrollment rates for girls in secondary school in Samburu County.
To further protect girls in Samburu County, we established a scholarship program through Koota Injena to send girls at risk to FGM and child marriage to secondary school and provide them with training on advocacy skills to become anti-FGM ambassadors. Studies show that out of school youth face an increased risk to harmful practices like FGM and child marriage. Secondary school is not compulsory in Kenya and requires school fees which many families cannot afford, leaving girls without an opportunity to attend school.