"To end FGM, we have to target the right people at the community level: elders, warriors, girls and boys, health workers, chiefs, administrators. We have to target everyone. When everyone is informed, that is when we will reach gender equality and see the change we desire."
– Samuel Leadismo
Co-Founder and Director, Pastoralist Child Foundation
Samuel Leadismo is a Samburu warrior from Samburu County, Kenya, where 86% of girls are subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM), a prevalent traditional practice that is seen as a right of passage that prepares girls for womanhood and marriage. It also often marks an end to a girls’ formal education, greatly limiting future opportunities for them to thrive. 10 years ago, Samuel founded Pastoralist Child Foundation to end these harmful practices and provide empowering opportunities to girls in Samburu through education.
Samuel’s late mother is the inspiration for his work. In her last year of life as she battled cancer, Samuel was her caretaker. They grew closer during this time and she shared with Samuel that she had always longed to receive an education herself. She asked him to promise that he would fight for the rights of girls in their community and ensure they had all the opportunities that she was never afforded.
Advocating for girls’ education and an end to FGM and child marriage was challenging for the first few years, Samuel shares. It’s been a long road to convince his community to abandon these practices that they viewed as important aspects of their culture. Men from his community were also adamant that FGM and child marriage were women’s issues, not men’s, and to let women solve their own problems, but Samuel pressed on. His success, he shares, was in adopting a holistic approach. “To end FGM, we have to target the right people at the community level: elders, warriors, girls and boys, health workers, chiefs, administrators. We have to target everyone. When everyone is informed, that is when we will reach gender equality and see the change we desire.”
“We are now seeing the light to end FGM,” Samuel says. He believes it is thanks in large part to a collective realization among organizations like his that they must treat ending FGM as a collective responsibility. Knowledge and information sharing among NGOs, government agencies, and other relevant stakeholders across the nation, from the grassroots level up, has made an enormous impact.
Samuel holds firm in his belief that “gender-based violence will end if we respect women, if we respect girls, and give them opportunities like any other girl around the world, that’s the only way we can progress as a community and as a nation.”