Tell us about you/your organization.
Pastoralist Child Foundation (PCF) was founded by Sayydah Garrett (Co-founder & President), a teacher from New Jersey, USA and Samuel Siriria Leadismo (Co-founder & Director), an anti-FGM activist in Kenya. Sayydah met Samuel whilst on a solo safari in Samburu and Maasai Mara, Kenya in 2012. They co-founded PCF 1 day after meeting each other. Samuel is a pastoralist and lifelong resident of Archer’s Post, Samburu County. He sees the negative impact FGM/C has on a girl’s education and her transition into womanhood by being forced to marry, thereby ending her formal education. It is to be noted that educated girls and women are more likely to support the abandonment of FGM/C. PCF is managed by young, educated professionals from pastoralist communities who know how to relate to and advise their communities. Elders in these patriarchal communities tend to listen to their children who have attended school. Many local young men and women who aren’t afraid to flip the status quo are working together to change the negative practices in their community.
How is your organization working to end female genital mutilation in the United States?
Actually, we do very little work in the United States. The rate of FGM/C is 95% in Samburu and Maasai Mara, Kenya. However, we joined the US END FGM/C Network to stay connected with our fellow activists around the world and to stay informed about FGM laws here. We were scheduled to hold an FGM/C awareness workshop with SHEFFA at City College of New York in April, 2020 but had to cancel due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We plan to reschedule the workshop as soon as it’s safe enough. We do regular interviews for magazines and podcasts to relay the message that FGM/C is a real threat right here in the US. What with “vacation cutting” and the medicalization of FGM/C people need to know that this practice is illegal, a human rights violation, violence against girls and women, unnecessary, and has no benefits. I strike up conversations with total strangers all the time and when I see an opening to mention the work PCF does to end FGM/C I talk about it. Many people are shocked that this practice still exists, or they’ve just never heard of it before. They’re horrified when I explain the procedure. Some people cry. I invite them to visit our website and Facebook page where all of our activities are highlighted.
What are the challenges and opportunities in trying to end female genital mutilation?
FGM/C is a long standing tradition in our practicing communities. However, we’re making great strides. We have learned that education is key. When our workshop participants and radio program audiences learn about the harmful physical, psychological, and emotional effects of FGM/C, the vast majority have a change of heart. The current challenge is that FGM/C is being done in secret in some villages and/or people with money go to doctors for the procedure. Fortunately, we have many former circumcisers, village chiefs, law enforcement, healthcare workers, religious leaders, change agents, and teachers in our communities who are against FGM/C. Samuel is a mentor to Youth against FGM/C advocates and travels to FGM/C hotspots to facilitate workshops. We believe it will take a generation before this practice is eradicated. Social media is a great tool to relay our ongoing advocacy, pictures, and fundraising campaigns.
How is the network helping you to achieve these goals and why is it important to be in the network?
The network is instrumental in keeping us informed about FGM/C laws and legislations in the US and keeping us connected to like-minded individuals and organizations around the world. It’s important to be in the network because we want to share what we’re all doing to end FGM/C and also learn from others. There’s power in numbers. The louder our voices, the sooner we’ll achieve our goals. The network is a good source for finding other individuals and organizations to collaborate with and to be informed about meetings, conferences, webinars, that we can participate in.
We can end female genital mutilation in the United States because we’re working collectively and strategically. When we see something, we do something. The US End FGM/C Network and its partners have achieved great success to date and PCF is confident this will continue until every girl and woman is safe from FGM/C.
Learn more about PCF programs.