After surviving FGM, poverty and discrimination, county boss now empowers underprivileged girls
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Abigael Pasiany is the Assistant County Commissioner Nandi County, Nandi East Sub-County. She is also the Founder of Lamuriak Woman Foundation, a nomadic community organization, supporting rural girls and women through education and economic empowerment. Woman Kenya talks to the woman who holds a degree in Community Development, about the inspiration behind Lamuriak Woman and how she rises above a male-dominated field.

How did you find yourself in administration?
I saw a job advertisement in the newspaper in 2014 and applied for it, got shortlisted, did the interview and passed. It was easy because I was qualified.

What is your biggest challenge working in county administration?
First and foremost, people still associate ‘DO’ jobs with men only. In fact, they are shocked when I introduce myself as the ‘DO’ in meetings or dispute meetings. Some locals don’t even think I am capable of handling administrative issues and prefer to escalate personal matters to my seniors.

Secondly, insecurity is a deterrent for women doing my kind of work because there are high-risk areas where we cannot be posted. Moreover, in this industry there is a lot of sexual harassment. It took a lot of time and work for men from patriarchal regions like Kajiado and Laikipia where I have worked to respect me and trust my competence.

Working around these issues must be a challenges?
That's a good point. Wherever I am posted to work, I do thorough backgrounding and research on laws and cultures of that region. Moreover, any form of employment has a code of conduct to offer guidelines on professional ethics and dealing with work-related issues including sexual harassment.

How do you deal with discrimination?
The fact that I am a Maasai woman working in a male-dominated field, in patriarchal community predisposes me to discrimination. But what really ticks me off is when I tell people I am from Narok and the first thing they want to know is whether I have been ‘cut.’ I have learned to rise above this stigma by not talking about my background.

You are Founder of Lamuriak Woman; what inspired you to launch this initiative?
Lamuriak means wild fruits in Maasai language. Wild fruits grow and blossom without nurturing, pruning, watering, weeds or fencing yet people enjoy the fruits. If Lamuriak were taken care of, they would feed the whole community. A girl is like a Lamuriak, if nurtured, empowered and mentored well, she bears lots of fruits and takes care of the community.

Why is Lamuriak Woman Foundation important to you?

I grew up in the village all my life, living in the most remote parts of Narok County, Narok North Constituency. I went to local schools and necessities like sanitary towels were a luxury. From primary through to secondary school, I relied on my well-off classmates to support and give me sanitary towels every month. I thank God for them because they made my learning journey smooth. Today, God has blessed me with a job and based on my personal experience, it is my turn to pay forward and restore the dignity of women and girls from my community as well as other underpriviledged regions.

What activities are lined up for Lamuriak Woman Foundation?
My plan is to ensure the project is sustainable for girls to attend school the whole year without missing four-five days because of menses. We want to boost their self-esteem and self-worth.

Lamuriak also does mentorship for boys and men…
It is important to mentor boys because if girls are over-empowered, boys feel intimidated interacting with them. They develop stress and lack of motivation in life, leading to drug and substance abuse.

Your thoughts on communities that promote harmful cultural practices like FGM?

I come from the Maasai community, known for propagating practices I highly condemn such as FGM, early marriages and early pregnancies. I am a survivor of FGM but was lucky to overcome and complete my education. My parents didn’t force me to get married because I showed interest in education. I detest FGM because after the practice, the next thing that comes to mind is how to get a boyfriend and before long, the girl Is pregnant. Truth is, some young women elope with boyfriends or are married off by their parents against their wish. Meanwhile, parents celebrate marriage goodies in form of dowry.

Any future plans?
Learning never ends and I am currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Development Studies from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.

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