Silent Sacrifice - Girl-child beading in the Samburu Community of Kenya
This report describes pilot research conducted by the Samburu Women Trust (SWT), formerly known as SWEEDO), a community based organization located in Nanyuki, Kenya. The research focused on a practice known as “beading,” which can be briefly described as a community-sanctioned, non-marital sexual relationship between Samburu men in the “warrior” age group, and young Samburu girls who are not yet eligible to be married. The practice of beading The practice of beading amongst the Samburu, has been little discussed and relatively unknown outside of the community. A few mentions of the practice have appeared in the anthropological literature and also document the practice of beading amongst the Rendille and Ariaal pastoralists of Northern Kenya1. Recent, community based research has been lacking, however. Awareness of the practice outside of the community began to emerge in 2011 after press reports documented pregnancies and forced abortions amongst Samburu girls as young as 12 who had been “beaded”. Human rights and girl-child beading From a human rights perspective, the practice of girl-child beading is a harmful cultural practice that amounts to violence against women. Despite important perceptions amongst community members about the possible value of the practice, the results for girls such as interrupted education, associated FGM, domestic violence and forced abortion suggest that finding alternatives to such a practice is an imperative. Indeed, certain elders in the community described the fact that girl-child beading was no longer serving the societal purposes it was designed for (and instead was leading to negative consequences) and that given an alternative, they would opt for ending the practice. From the perspective of Kenya’s constitutional, legislative, and treaty obligations, there can be no doubt that the government has a responsibility to support the community in any such effort.