Josephine was born 28 years ago. Her mother was uprooted from Form Two and forced to marry her late father as a second wife.
• She is a trained nurse, but runs a foundation she established aimed at rescuing young girls from early marriage and female genital mutilation.
• She comes from a community where a relative or non relative are allowed to engage a girl as young as six years.
• On engaging her, by putting a red beaded necklace round her neck, he is permitted to have sex with her.
“I have been threatened, even cursed,” she says. However, this has done little to sway her resolve. Currently, Samburu Girls Foundation has rescued 56 girls and 24 are in secondary schools. The foundation ensure they go through secondary school education, and luckily 14 girls are on full scholarship from Form One through to Foirm Four courtesy of the funding from a well-wisher.
The 13 babies rescued from being killed have been put in children’s homes.
“We rely on well wishers for their upkeep,” she says. Other times, the rescued girls are placed in foster families.
To effect rescues, Josephine says that they are alerted by neighbours who are turning against the culture. Also, some chiefs and sub-chiefs ask for her help. However, Josephine is saddened by the fact that some community leaders, who should know better to protect their subjects, marry the young girls promoting the outdated tradition.
It’s for this reason that SGF has also embarked on an aggressive civil education. She says it seems to pay off, as they have won the hearts of very important partners, the Samburu Morans, who accompany them during the sometimes-risky rescue missions.
“It’s only when the community is mobilised proactively that we will win this war,” says the SGF Patron, Gladys Lesrima.
Gladys, who also champions for the rights of women in Samburu says that she collaborated with Josephine as there are not many courageous enough people in the region to take the bull by the horns.
Gladys is the wife of the Samburu West MP, Simeon Lesrima, whom she says also, supports the intiative.
Their greatest challenge is lack of rescue centres in the region. Josephine says that this hinders them from rescuing many more girls who continue to be forced into FGM and early marriages. The County Council of Samburu has given the foundation a 60-acre piece of land, which they hope to construct a rescue centre.
In the meantime, Josephine, who lives in Maralal where SGF is also headquartered, continues to be a beacon of hope to the Samburu girls. Demonstrating that she is not against marriage, as the community elders would like to think. Josephine married a Harvard educated Samburu man whom she grew up with.