Beaded Necklaces

When I think of “beading” from my western perspective, I currently think of beading as a craft exercise.  Especially since it has become popular with stores exclusively selling an extensive selection of beads for jewelry, crafts, and etc..  In a different country and culture, “beading” can have a very different connotation.

In Kenya it can mean something much worse.  In the Samburu tribe, “beading” equals rape and a tradition.  According to CNN: “In ‘beading,’ a close family relative will approach a girl’s parents with red Samburu beads and place the necklace around the girl’s neck.”  By “beading” a young girl, she is reserved and becomes temporarily engaged to her relative.  As a result, it becomes ok to have sex with a child.

“Beading” of girls can start at 6 years of age in a tradition that has been outlawed but unfortunately still continues.  If the girls get pregnant, they can’t keep the babies.  The infants end up being killed or given away by the tribe.  Some girls end up having crude abortions or they will face alienation by their families and the tribe.  The abortions often end up in severe infections for the young girls.  If they keep the babies, they will never be allowed to marry in the tribe.

The Samburu tribe believes that “beading” will stop promiscuity among the girls.  Really?  It appears to me that the men in the tribe are trying to justify the rape of children and covering up the evidence of pregnancy.  No tradition is worth the demoralization, destruction, and denigration of girls’ mental and physical well being.

However, there is someone that wants to see “beading” end.  Josephine Kulea, a young woman, activist, and Samburu tribe member has vowed to stop this practice.  She goes back to the tribe with armed help to rescue the girls and takes them to shelters while their babies are taken to orphanages.

Josephine is a courageous example of standing up and making change for what is right.  Her actions give me faith and hope in humanity…

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