Documentary screening: 'Maasai Sisters'

Film focuses on rescuing Kenyan girls from old tribal traditions

For documentary filmmaker Samantha Andre, the fight to end female genital mutilation and child marriage has become a passion project.

Right now she is living at home in Woodside, showing her latest work to raise funds for a girls' rescue center in Kenya, but come December she is headed back to Africa to do more filming about one woman's efforts to stop female genital mutilation and early forced marriage in her Maasai tribe.

Activist Lucy Itore is the subject of "Maasai Sisters," the 30-minute documentary the two will be showing and discussing at local screenings starting Nov. 22.

Itore "was forcibly circumcised when she was in middle school; it was really traumatic for her and she almost died from how much blood she lost," Andre said.

When she learned her father was going to marry her off to an older man, she ran away in the middle of the night. She went to live with her uncle and was able to receive an education.

Today Itore is a mother of three and assistant principal and teacher at Ilbissil Primary Boarding School in the Kajiado district in the Rift Valley province of Kenya. There she has brought more than 200 girls she has rescued from a tradition that was banned in 2011, but still practiced -- cutting female genitals and forcing girls to marry.

According to Andre, the girls are "usually circumcised between 9 and 14, and married off any time after that."

Itore works with local police and other activists to take the girl and bring her to the school. "The goal is to reconcile a girl back to her community and family," but when police arrest parents, and court cases result, there can be "repercussions," Ms. Andre said.

With the school at capacity, the new goal is to set up a home and educational center for the girls.

Itore and Andre are currently making fundraising appearances in Seattle, the Bay Area and Southern California, showing the documentary and collecting donations for their nonprofit organization of the same name, Maasai Sisters.

A free screening and talk will take place at Landmark Aquarius Theatre, 430 Emerson St. in Palo Alto at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 27.

Go to Maasai Palo Alto to RSVP.

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