Welcome to the Join Up Dots Podcast Interview with Fiona Sampson
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Introducing Fiona Sampson
She is a lady who is on a mission to create a safer world for vulnerable girls and women by working to prevent future generations from suffering the emotional and physical trauma of sexual assault.
She is challenging the system that allows such acts of violence to go unpunished and by doing so, influencing a behaviour change in perpetrators of human rights violations against women and ensuring that consequences of these acts are enforced.
And this mission started as far away from her base in Canada as is possible.
In Kenya, the rape of little girls is known legally as “defilement.”
Defiling is common there — a woman/girl is raped every 30 minutes — but even girl babies as young as three months are helpless against men who know they’ll never be prosecuted for the worst brutality imaginable.
These child victims are the loneliest girls in the world.
They are often orphaned by AIDS and are vulnerable to attacks by their remaining family as well as strangers.
The myth that having sex with a virgin is a cure for HIV/AIDS is also a spur, and not just for paedophiles.
How The Dots Joined Up For Fiona
So our guest has pioneered a new way of holding governments accountable for human rights violations against women by ensuring that women in countries such as Kenya, have access to legal resources, support and remedies that have otherwise would have been inaccessible due to economics, culture, and violations of gender rights.
But that is just a part of her story, as she is also is the last known thalidomide victim born in Canada.
She refers to this experience as one of her first life experiences where she realized that those responsible for creating harm acted without consequence, compounding the impact of her victimization.
This has amplified the empathy she feels for the suffering of others and is certainly one of the big dots that has led her on the Join Up Dots timeline.
Well let’s bring onto the Join Up Dots free podcast interview, as we discuss the words of Steve Jobs with the one and only Fiona Sampson
During the show we discussed such weighty topics with Fiona Sampson such as:
How at least to me, unexpectedly the Nazis created thalidomide to test on expectant Mothers in concentration camps during World War 2.
Why she feels so passionately that she has to support the people across the world who find themselves outside the norm, no matter where they are.
Fiona Sampson shares a story about how one twelve girl stood up in a small hall, and bravely pointed to the man that raped her, changing the world overnight.
How she feels that the work that she does is like being in love, and the positives massively outweigh the emotional distress that she encounters everyday.
How To Connect With Fiona Sampson
Or of course you can check out thousands of podcast interviews in our archives here
Full Transcription Of Fiona Sampson Interview
David Ralph [0:00]
Today’s show is brought to you by podcast is mastery.com. The premier online community teaching you to podcast like a pro check us out now. podcasters mastery.com.
When we’re young, we have an amazing positive outlook about how great life is going to be. But somewhere along the line we forget to dream and end up settling. Join Up Dots features amazing people who refuse to give up and chose to go after their dreams. This is your blueprint for greatness. So here’s your host live from the back of his garden in the UK. David Ralph.
David Ralph [0:37]
Yes, hello, everybody. This is David Ralph. This is Join Up Dots. And this is Episode 390 of the series. And yeah, we’re only 10 away from the four hundreds. It’s unbelievable how it so quickly passes you by now we’ve got a guest on and it’s one of those kind of episodes that deviate slightly from the Join Up Dots theme but also links Very closely as well is about a lady that’s taking huge action, doing things in the right way and really trying to go against the status quo, not accepting what other people tell her is right or wrong. Now she is a lady who as I say she’s on a mission to create a safer world for vulnerable girls and women. By working to prevent future generations from suffering the emotional and physical trauma of sexual assault. She’s challenging the system that allows such acts of violence to go unpunished. And by doing so, influencing a behaviour change in perpetrators of human rights violations against women, and ensuring the consequences of these acts imposed and this mission started as far away from a base in Canada as is possible. Now in Kenya, the rape of little girls is known legally as their farmer defining is common there and a woman or girl is raped every 30 minutes. That’d be thinking that is bad enough and of course it is. Even baby girls as young as three mums are helpless against men who noven never be possible. cuted for the worst brutality imaginable. These child victims are the loneliest girls in the world. They’re often orphaned by aids, and are vulnerable to attacks by their remaining family as well as strangers. The myth that having sex with a virgin is a cure for HIV AIDS is also a spur, and not just for paedophiles. So our guest has pioneered a new way of holding governments accountable for human rights violations against women. By ensuring that women in countries such as Kenya have access to legal resources, support and remedies have otherwise been inaccessible due to economics, culture and violations of gender rights. But that is just a part of a story. She’s also is the last known for leader my victim born in Canada. She refers to this experience as one of her first life experiences where she realised that I was responsible for creating harm, acted without consequence, compounding the impact of victimisation. Now this is amplified the empathy she feels the suffering of others and is certainly one of the big dots that has led her Join Up Dots timeline. So let’s without further ado bring onto the show to start joining up dots as we discuss the words of Steve Jobs and other parts with the one and only Fiona Sampson, how are you Fiona?
Fiona Sampson [3:14]
I’m very good, thank you.
David Ralph [3:15]
Well, I’ve got no time to waste on this because there is so much content just in that introduction. It was a hell of it was an epic it was an epic one. So you’re, you’re based in Canada? How does one person feel that they can change the world because most people most listeners struggle to even change their own personal situation and opposed personal environment and you’re taking on the world does that kind of blow your mind?
Fiona Sampson [3:43]
So I should, I should start by saying that the equality effects work is a is a huge team effort. So there are three of us on staff and, and we’re located in Toronto, Ottawa, Nairobi, but but there’s a huge international team from across Canada, the UK, the US across Sub Saharan Africa and really all around the world that are working collaboratively in a non traditional way that the law is usually not practised in a, in a collaborative method. And and so we work together cooperatively and not just lawyers. It is a really interdisciplinary approach, which is also what makes the equality effects work different. So we work with social workers, with filmmakers with it people with behavioural economists it’s it is a sort of layered and complex approach to the law. One of our one of our founding sisters said recently that she thinks the equality effect shines a bright light on the dusty corners of the law. And I think I think what she meant by that, that sort of poetic statement is that the law is often a very patriarchal and archaic tool through which to achieve justice. But the equality effect using the sort of interdisciplinary non traditional approach does shine a light on on dusty corners that allow us to take advantage of of the law and use it to make girls rights real.
David Ralph [5:14]
So will you not one of the founding sisters that
Fiona Sampson [5:17]
I was I was really I started it I guess I
David Ralph [5:22]
was like the owner, I was right. You’re too humble. But, but really
Fiona Sampson [5:27]
huge team effort, but I did. I did. I guess I started it as my brother used to often say when we were little that she started it. And I did I started it and and really I started it because I was to be honest, angry at, at what I saw happening in, in in the international context relating to violence against women. And I knew that there was an answer. I knew that that it is doable in terms of Holding perpetrators accountable and changing behaviour. And so I connected with friends and colleagues internationally. And we, we came up with a with a plan and now we’re executing the plan. And it’s been effective. So so it is quite satisfying. I have to say,
David Ralph [6:19]
Well, yeah, it’s an amazing statement to make. And the intent is amazing as well. But I’m very much interested, when that idea popped into your head. Okay, you were angry. But still, when you think to yourself, how do I tackle this? How do I tackle something that’s been going on forever in the day? And I know, that’s the question that probably Gandy thought to himself and and anyone who’s all create something quite remarkable, but it’s still you must have sat down, but I haven’t got a clue how to do this.
Fiona Sampson [6:49]
So I think from you know, from an early stage, as you mentioned in the introduction, I had an awareness of state impunity for injustice. So So the, you know, the the Nazis developed, solidified during mad, you know, during their reign, and it was developed and tested in the concentration camps and and so my experience as a thalidomide survivor made me very much aware of that, that impunity that the Nazis and then the German drug companies enjoyed relating to, to to solidify and and I grew up I think just being alert to to opportunities to address that injustice and so was attracted to the law as a way of holding perpetrators accountable, starting with Nuremberg, but, but moving forward into more contemporary options. So So what
David Ralph [7:46]
was it always been personal for you, Ben right from the early stage?
Fiona Sampson [7:50]
No, I think I think that personal experience gave me a real affinity for the disadvantaged, experienced by other people. So I was very interested in the civil rights movement and The experience of racism growing up and then in Canada, I was particularly interested in the experience of Aboriginal people. And, you know, for, for us the Aboriginal experience is very much our story of apartheid in Canada. In fact, the South Africans got the idea for apartheid from our residential school experience. So, it it is an excellently proud export that Canada has having, having established this horrific system of assimilation and cultural genocide for for Aboriginal people in Canada. And so I, you know, I was connected with with the north in Canada and and really established some very meaningful relationships with with Aboriginal communities up north and, and so that was a real turning point for me being adopted, sort of metaphorically into into those communities and having elders and particularly elders who were women introduced me to alternative forms of justice and and ideas about, about equality and and then we were working to to achieve Aboriginal justice and specifically in the context of land claims and the communities i was i was attached to, but but there were some frustrations with the political and Law Reform techniques we were using. So I was really motivated to go to law school and harness the power of the law to to address these issues and that’s when I got got sort of directed into the legal route and and really, it was like, a bit of an embarrassment of riches like all the potential tools that aren’t conventionally used to to achieve justice for for the disadvantaged, but they’re there and and when you when you think creatively and sort of outside of the box they are available to apply in contexts that aren’t usually the the recipient of that kind of attention. So, for example, Aboriginal rights or violence against women. Well,
David Ralph [10:16]
you you are blowing my mind because I’ve learned so much in the first 10 minutes. I don’t know where to go in this conversation. I have no idea but there was an Aboriginal communities in Canada. That’s that’s totally new to me. Certainly, I had no idea that Nazis created felina mind and, and I just want to touch on that that’s not the key point to the story. But I know so many people like me will have heard of that word would have known that it was something that’s not used anymore and it’s it’s a bad thing. But what other sort of conditions has it affected the way that you operate and how has it affected your life?
Fiona Sampson [10:51]
You know, I think the the advantage for me if the political experience has been that it it has given me an appreciation of what It is like to be outside the norm so I am otherwise except for the solidified damage, you know a mainstream white mainstream white person, the slit of my damages is is what is basically what you associate with Dylan my victims with the with the damaged limbs so for me it’s it’s my upper limbs not I have full mobility and whatnot in my in my lower limbs but but it is it’s not really about the impairment for me it’s more about the psychological experience and and knowing what it’s like to be outside that norm and to be an outsider and to experience the the disadvantage of being on on the outside so it it really gives me this affinity for I think the experience much more extreme of others. To find themselves outside the norm, so when, when I’ve been litigating in Canada before I, before we started the equality effect i was i was doing equality law in Canada and working, as I said, with Aboriginal people, but also with with survivors of violence, I litigated the first same sex benefits case in Canada that that succeeded in, in the same sex benefits context. And and I think all these very different experiences have commonalities that that I have, that I have enjoyed a real benefit from in terms of being able to identify with those experiences in it. It gives me an energy I think and and a real passion for, for justice, because I do I do identify,
David Ralph [12:48]
do you think people generally lack having bad do you think people have to have something personal that happens to them because you see it time and time again, but somebody rallies I community calls all the purpose because something has happened to them. And more often than not the people that nothing’s happened to just float through life, they just seem to be in limbo somehow. Is that a key point? Is that why you’re going through it so passionately?
Fiona Sampson [13:17]
I don’t know it is for me, but I don’t think necessarily for others because I know people that I talked to about, about the equality effects work and the work that that we do with with young girls. I see them like I can visibly see them connect to the girls stories and they are like 10,000 miles away and some of them living very privileged lives in downtown Toronto, very, you know, as far away from from rural Kenya as you can get but but they connect like there is a common humanity, I think that allows people to, to, to have that, to have that connection. So so I don’t think you do have to have a personal experience yourself. But I think you know, being being open minded Having that, that natural empathy does allow us to, to live larger lives that are informed by by the experience of others. And I think the people that, that I can I’m able to connect from Canada and states, the UK who support the the girls and Kenya, Ghana, I’m allowing you the other countries that the equality effect works. I think that, you know, they’ve, they’ve never necessarily been anywhere close to Africa, but they, you know, they have, they have a natural interest in, in the global experience, and I think they feel the same satisfaction of contributing to change and, and that is hugely rewarding. And so I think it, it doesn’t necessarily have to come from a personal experience of disadvantage, but there’s more focus on the positive and the ability to contribute to change and and how incredibly rewarding that is.
David Ralph [15:02]
Well, before we start talking about Africa, obviously, I went through in the introduction and it is horrible just mentioning it, but you’re kind of living with it time and time again. How do you leave it behind? How do you sort of go off to the movies and not think about it for two hours because I found as a father, well, not even as a father as a human, every single thing that I read out was just wrong. It was just wrong, wrong wrong and it made me feel sick to my stomach. So how do you leave that behind and sort of live a normal life when you’re so engulfed by it?
Fiona Sampson [15:31]
So it is a bit for me like being in love. The work that I do is not work. It doesn’t never feels like work. It never feels onerous. It is completely all consuming in the same way that love I think consumes us and you have no choice and and you’re just you’re just enveloped in it. And so it is. It is entirely positive for me, but the subject matter is challenging and the violations are horrific. And for me though, I think that the difference is that the the story starts in a story of violence and oppression and, and that’s where, where it all began. But the work is really about transformation and empowerment. And you know, in the beginning, knowing that what we could do using the law to make these girls rights real and to make themselves knowing it would work, and now seeing it work. It is all about the positive for me. So it is, it’s a bit addictive. It’s a bit, it’s a bit like I can’t stop because I know it’s working like we are seeing concrete change on the ground now and girls lives are improving and and so that, you know that positive impact is irresistible.
David Ralph [16:47]
So tell us about when he first came into your life, and you knew at that moment or maybe not at that moment, maybe it hung around you for a while, but you could make a positive difference. How did that occur?
Fiona Sampson [17:01]
So there may be two, two separate incidents or two answers to that question. The the first, the first moment where I when I really sort of mobilised around this was when I was doing my PhD and in law and I was relaxing in a very comfortable chair in my living room reading the guardian and reading a story about about the farm and about the rape of young girls and Africa. And it was, you know, a horrific story very compelling and all focused on the impact on the girls. And, and it frustrated me because I knew there was an answer. I knew that we could use the law to address the impunity that was being experienced by the perpetrators. And I just moved from that very comfortable chair to to mobilising at with with friends and colleagues from Africa that I was that I was I grad school with that I was doing my PhD with. So I went them and I said, Look, this is this is what we’ve done in Canada. This is what’s worked and what hasn’t worked. And we’ve made some progress in terms of women’s rights here in Canada, we still definitely got room to improve, but we made some progress. What do you think about the transferability of this, and they were totally into it. They were very, very fascinated with what we’ve done, what has worked, what hasn’t worked, and we sort of collect collectively caught this, this real buzz from the from the the idea so. So we all started moving forward together making this plan to to use the law to use the Canadian experience as a reference or a starting point so that in our partner countries where we’re working now, we wouldn’t have to start from scratch, we wouldn’t have to reinvent the equality wheel. So you know, the issues are so urgent, it doesn’t make sense to take the time or money to reinvent the equality wheel. So we so we established the equality effect and we have several projects relating to to customary law. And to, to female genital mutilation to, to marital rape, several issues on the go. And then I met a woman named mercy Chitty, who is a social worker from Kenya. She runs a rape shelter for girls and in Kenya and mercy is a bit of the Erin Brockovich of Kenya. So, mercy is not a lawyer, but she’s a social worker as but she knows how to use the law to get justice and she is fearless and tireless in her pursuit of justice. So we met and we’re talking about what, what each other do and she said, You can help us and I said, possibly so interesting. So I said, what, you know what issue out of all the issues she faces with the girls that she rescues from rape in, in Kenya, I said, you know, what is the issue that that, you know, stands out most what is the priority issue and she said, you know, the issue of Defilement this, this issue of girls being raped. And defilement is an old English term that comes from the British legal experience, usually used to refer to property. So it gives you some insight into the legal status of girls in Kenya that this is the term that’s used in the in the Kenyan sexual assault legislation. It’s the term that’s used across Sub Saharan Africa. But But she said the, you know, the issue of the farm and, and really the problem that she saw was that there are excellent laws and Kenya intended to protect girls from rape, the excellent sexual assault laws and fabulous constitution, a new constitution, introduced in 2010. And the problem was quite straightforward as she saw it was that police were not enforcing the laws intended to protect girls from rape. So she told me a story that I can I can share with you that that really captured the essence of the problem. For her and and was a source of her mobilisation, so
David Ralph [21:03]
go for it, go for it.
Fiona Sampson [21:05]
Right so she had she had been working with a young girl whose name is Millie and melee was about 12 years old when she was rescued by Mercy’s shelter. She had been raped and she conceived a baby as a result of the rape so so she got care and treatment at the the shelter Mercy’s operation ripples International. The two Miney rape Centre provides amazing support and and some really got the care and treatment she needed. She had the baby she went back to her community. summer she was back at Millie’s community following up doing doing a follow up visit and they attended a community meeting and at the end of this community meeting where everybody was sort of jammed into this small meeting space. Millie raised her hand asked if she could add to to the end of the the medium. She She couldn’t She could have been an add on and and the chief acknowledged Millie and gave her permission to speak. So Millie stood up and Millie was holding her baby. And mercy didn’t know any of this was coming. But But Millie stood up. And at about 13 years old, she, she said to the chief and the whole community, she said, I had this baby. And she said, I never wanted this baby. And she said, I have this baby and I can’t go to school because I have this baby and I’m not safe to walk the streets. And she pointed at a man standing at the side of the meeting hall, she said, I’m not safe and I’m not free. Because that man over there raped me. And she said, he is free and I am not and I want to know what you’re going to do about it. And mercy said that in that moment, there was just total silence in the meeting hall and it was like the oxygen was sucked out of the room and and no one had an answer for Millie and she said that, you know, people Their heads and there were tears. But there were no answers for Millie. And so what occurred to mercy that, really she didn’t want to rescue the girls from rape anymore, that she’d spend the rest of her life doing that and there would be no solution to the problem, that she wanted the rapes to stop. And she knew, like Erin Brockovich knew that there was a legal answer to the problem. So she came to, to me and to the equality fact we were already working in Kenya. And she said, can you help? And I said, of course, you know, this is what we do. So we get to address root sources of systemic problems of discrimination and way mercy described, it really captures I think what I just said in a much more accessible way. Mercy said she wanted to stop mopping the floor and she wanted to turn off the top. So she wanted to stop rescuing the girl she wanted the rapes to stop, and that she knew we could use the law to hold the police accountable for their failure to enforce the law and hold perpetrators accountable for Violence. So that’s what we did. So So
David Ralph [24:03]
when she pointed out that man, I was desperate to jump in and ask the question and let the story go. Deep did people grab him did Did anything happen to that guy standing? And did he just walk free from there? Because I think I would find it terribly hard not to go up and confront him or do something.
Fiona Sampson [24:22]
And sometimes that happens, it does happen that communities in a bit of a moment of vigilantism will, will rally around but and in this case, and and as is often the norm, unfortunately, it there was no response. It’s just it’s just sort of normalised and and the police fail to act in the past, this has been the standard practice that that there there is a general lack of engagement. So so that was what we built the house. During the 60 girls case around was that that failure of police action and when, when mercy and I were chatting about about her, her her issue that the problem of development, and I said, well need claimants will need petitioners and she said, I have 160 girls who have been through the rape centre that need access to justice. So that was in that moment that the 160 girls project was born and and so we have this bit of a concept number 160 girls originally, who needed access to justice since then, since 2011. very sadly, some of the girls have died as a result of their their HIV AIDS that they contract it through the rapes or as a result of the trauma and equally as as disturbing the because of the high prevalence of Defilement, the number has increased. So So we started with 160 when we filed the constitutional claim in the matter, we have closed A 240 and and now just in Meru, just in this one at this one centre, there’s over 300.
David Ralph [26:07]
So how do you know that you’re making a positive difference? He those figures are increasing.
Fiona Sampson [26:14]
So it is a, you know, it’s a bit of a bit of an evolutionary organic story, but what happened was we, we developed a legal claim for, for the for the situation so we we the equality effect working with our our legal team put together a constitutional claim using the Kenyan constitution that the focused on the police treatment of the girls as a violation of their regional international and domestic human rights. So we took about two years to collect the evidence and we you know, we needed to be thorough in terms of ensuring there are no loopholes for the state to take advantage of, and also evidence collection in Kenya. It is like different than evidence collection in say Toronto or London where you can phone up a witness and ask them to come to your office and you transcribe their evidence. So, you know, instead you’re hiking up mountain trails to a farm at the top of an, you know, steep mountainside and dealing with stinging nettles and rude cows on the path and, you know, you get to the farm and people may or may not about the message that you’re coming so it is time intensive and labour intensive but that we built we built the case. There was over 500 pages of evidence and the evidence that we collected was everything from the police just refusing to enter a complaint of rape into the occurrence book
David Ralph [27:42]
BPO know why was the police
Fiona Sampson [27:44]
no well now we know now that we’re jumping ahead without you know, stealing too much of the punch line since the having won the the case and and working with the police to implement the decision. We’ve been doing baseline research to establish Sort of pre training and post training status of the police. And when we asked the police know why, like why why would you not enter a, you know, a complaint in the book? And they say that, that originally before the hundred 60 girls decision the issue was not prioritised. So it wasn’t prioritised by by their seniors. So it just didn’t get the attention that it should have. And it was what we described as it was, you know, discriminated against. So, so, you know, now we’re seeing a different situation, but it did take us, you know, that those 500 pages of evidence and a huge breadth of different experiences of discrimination with the police, and that was what we put in front of the judge in front of the High Court of Kenya on October 11 20 2012. And, and the the High Court agreed with us today. Took us eight months to get a decision in the case. And we had litigated similar kinds of complaints here in Canada. And it’s taken up to 10 years basically to get get a result. So we really learned from the Canadian experience and, and the Kenyan courts took real leadership. They, you know, we argued the issues are urgent, it’s an epidemic and they they hurt us so. So in May 2013, almost two years ago, we we got the court’s decision. And the Court made made legal history in Kenya by deciding in favour of the hundred and 60 girls and the equality effect and finding that the girls rights had been violated under under domestic regional and international human rights law as a result of the police treatment, but that we had made a very radical claim and this is what made the case exceptional and and had and the case really established the high watermark that’s still held for girls rights internationally. We had argued that the police were not just responsible for For the harm resulting from their own treatment of the girls and their own discriminatory treatment of the claims, we had argued that the police were responsible for the climate of impunity for the rapes, and that they were responsible for the rapes themselves. And that was a radical argument. And the court agreed with us so that really, that really turned the law on its head.
David Ralph [30:22]
And and away from the law, obviously, pushing it through the channels that you have encountered and you’ve overcome is the right way of doing it. But is there not a source of education that’s, that’s required as well, that the fact that as you in the introduction we’re talking about, there’s a myth, but having sex of a virgin as a cure for HIV and AIDS now, but that is an education issue, isn’t it for the men out there?
Fiona Sampson [30:48]
So it is and our partners on the ground have been doing education about that issue for over 20 years. And and I’m not sure that that myth is actually is actually believed anymore. I think that in some cases it is but but generally, I think that, that the issue has become so normalised and the experience so normalised, and with the lack of impunity, it has become quite rampant. So the education now is shifting. So what we are doing following the victory of the hundred and 60 girls in the High Court of Kenya, we are faced with the next challenge in this in this story, which is how to make that decision real how to make it meaningful and and traditionally, what lawyers do is you litigate a case you went to your lose, and then you go on to the next case, but our partners asked us to stay involved and and we had to put together an implementation plan, which we were happy to do. So we wrote the police and said, You know, this is the decision you’ve got three months to implement. And the police, the Kenyan police showing huge leadership and really an unprecedented move. Got back in touch with us and said, Look, this is a wake up call for us. We need to work in partnership with you to implement this decision. And the court had said that the police had to act in a prompt proper, professional and effective way to to address to file the claims. But the police to their credit, they said, you know, what does that mean? Like in concrete terms? What does that mean? And we had had, can Canadian police experts from the Vancouver police help us build the case and provide expert evidence in the in the claim. And so now we are working with the Canadian police, the Kenyan police and the equality effect lawyers to implement training for the Kenyan police were working in four pilot areas to to enforce the 160 girls decision and in very concrete terms to ensure that they understand what best practices are in an international context relating to defilement claims, and so collectively, we’re developing The training so it’s very different than an NGO usually operates. We’re not just imposing what we think should should be the operational methodology here. We have developed it collaboratively with the police peer to peer Canadian Kenyan police. And then the lawyer is ensuring that it all complies with the hundred and 60 girls decision. And if you picture the model of the drunk driving campaigns and how they worked, how you have the law communities and the police all working together to affect behaviour change relating in the context of drunk driving to driving impaired in our context relating to defilement and and perpetrating sexual violence. So we are now working with the police. We’ve been doing the training for about almost five months rolling it out, and our partners on the ground our rape shelter partners. I just got back from Kenya about a week ago. And already they tell us that the difference is night and day in terms of how the police are responding, which is very encouraging. And I have always said that this is long term work and
David Ralph [34:13]
Oh boy, well, I have I know you will put that through but it goes totally to a training and and generations of police enforcement. What what has changed it Why have I privatised it now because the laws were obviously there. Everybody knows it was wrong to be beforehand, but they didn’t do anything about it.
Fiona Sampson [34:34]
So I think it is a combination of factors. I think we have a very big stick now that we have this constitutional victory that is recognised internationally as the high watermark for girls rights. So I think Kenyans including the police are very proud of that leadership in terms of the the judicial victory and and it’s a big stick if they don’t comply with that decision, there are repercussions. So so we have That advantage, we have excellent leadership being demonstrated by the senior Kenyan police. So they, they sort of took on this initiative this, this started with them. And when we when we were doing the initial training in Kenya in November, December, the Inspector General was tweeting about, about the about the the 160 girls police training and and I think, you know, these very, very positive leadership that he’s demonstrating is inspirational for the rest of the cops and and they are appreciating that that this is a priority now and it has been incorporated into their performance evaluation now. So it is making a difference to them personally. So there is a positive reinforcement in terms of them participating in a in an effective way in this project. And we have 12 Senior police that are our faculty that have been designated as
Participating hugely effectively in the in the project and one of them has already been promoted is like the number isn’t a number four number three for position in the police now in Kenya and and i think that kind of recognition of the value of this work is is critical and I think the third element of the of the project that makes it distinct is that we are working connecting communities and the police and traditionally those two entities have been at odds with each other in this context. So there has been quite a bit of blame shifting that’s happened between the communities and the police. And now as a result of the hundred and 60 girls project, we are working collaboratively as a team and and that’s what our rape shelter partners tell us they they said that you know that it is now like the police are on their team and and it you know, it has made the difference. Some like that is like night and day for them. So, we we are seeing the police investigate the cases now. They’re making arrests and we’re getting convictions and and i was there you know, as I said just a week or so ago and and I haven’t been there when we’ve got we’ve got convictions yet and there was a little girl her name. Her name is Yvonne smuggler Yvonne and she’s one of our 160 girls and she was eight years old when she was raped on the way to collect water at a local River. And originally before the hundred and 60 girls decision, the police refused to investigate her claim and we suspect maybe they had been corrupted but but we don’t know. So they refused. We got the hundred and 60 girls decision. The police have now responded they investigated they arrested the neighbour who raped Yvonne and the case was prosecuted. We recently got a conviction and he got a life sentence. So that a concrete example of the equality effect making girls rights real. But I asked our lead social worker, you know, how did the girls react when when we get the convictions like what is it like for them? Like I know when we won the 160 girls decision, it was a huge celebration and it was a transformation for them from being victims to Victor’s but but that was a collective experience and and i’m curious in their individual cases, what what the responses and chip 10 day the social worker is very understated way he he said to me, they are happy. And I said, Well, how do you know they’re happy? Like how do you know that? He said well, in advance Casey Vaughn wasn’t in court when the decision was delivered and and so he went to her farm to tell her and her family that the the perpetrator had been convicted and got a life sentence. And when he told Yvonne apparently she started jumping up and down with her arms or fists in the air, like, like she just won a marathon. She was running in circles, yelling, God is great. God is great. God is great and her parents are laughing and crying and hugging. chipton dancing. Thank you and, and news spreads fast there. So the community members, the neighbours started arriving and they’re all celebrating and lifting Yvonne on their shoulders and, and you know that when you asked me earlier, how do we know we’re making a difference? That is that is night and day in terms of, you know, the situation before when the girls were basically being ignored and abandoned and treated as as broken property. And now their rights are being respected, they’re being honoured and the stigma is shifting from the attachment to the girls as the victims to the perpetrators. So, that is where the stigma should be. And, and from this we expect to see deterrence and and eventually, a decrease And diminishment in the rate of Defilement
David Ralph [40:03]
in the United Kingdom at the moment we’re seeing a seismic change in the the confidence of victims to come forward, knowing that they will now be listened to I don’t know if it was worldwide news, but we had a very famous TV presenter who was extremely Yes. Oh, you know about this guy. And yeah, I grew up with him in the 70s. And he was very, very famous. And we used to watch him every Saturday evening. And after he died, I don’t know why it came out after he died. It turned out he was a real bad and, and he just abused people up down the country. And he got away with it by doing charity work. So he would do charity marathons up the country but use it to cover his crimes as he was going along. And since Ben there has been a huge wave of police investigations and very famous people, and there’s some that have been sort of been put into prison that you think Yeah, okay, I believe Totally. And there’s others that you think I can’t believe that I used to watch him as a child, I can’t believe that he, he did anything wrong. But from all of this, they say that it’s an absolute epidemic of people coming forward now, for the first time thinking that these high profile people aren’t going to be believed, and the victims are going to be believed people are actually going to take it seriously. So has that been a change in in Kenya do do the girls bill that there’s there’s open is to them now.
Fiona Sampson [41:28]
You know, I think that there is a similar shift happening that the courts of the courts have heard their story and, you know, when the High Court decided in their favour, it was a huge affirmation for them and, and it it really it really did. I think, you know, it’s a word that gets used a lot but it empowered them and it was, it was really the personification of empowerment, seeing, you know, seeing the girls celebrate the the 160 girls decision and, and you know in Canada we had a famous sexual assault claim of very ordinary woman who was was raped as a result of police and competency and and held the police accountable for for her rape and it took her 10 years to get justice against the Toronto Police but but she said she felt like she had won the day she filed her claim the day she got access to justice and the system started to work for her and you know I feel like that was like that for for the girls to and Kenya and and and you know we’ve we’ve seen a similar empowerment I think in Canada we have a very famous radio host in in Canada His name is Jim Ghomeshi has been charged with with multiple vile sexual assaults are violent but but very violent. rapes and and behaviour and he you know he his multiple victims have have become heroes, I think in Canada in terms of standing up to the system and and taking on taking on this experience and I, you know, I think they deserve that the Order of Canada highest of the highest award they could receive for, for demonstrating that leadership and and they you know, the system is starting to change the police, I think in in Canada have been the subject of, of similar claims, the kind that we we brought in Kenya and that we’re bringing, you know, starting to look at in Malawi and Ghana. But but there is definitely room for improvement in our system, the way that the prosecution works and the lack of lack of counsel for victims within the system. We we say that the the only woman that the the crown represents the prosecution represents the Queen of England, but, you know, they they just represent the public interest. They don’t represent the victims. So So there’s definitely room for improvement in terms of the system but but it is changing and and I think it is it is having a positive impact
David Ralph [44:10]
that that may lead that was a real Rosa Parks moment wasn’t it? I keep reflecting back on how one person standing up and saying enough is enough can really change the world
Fiona Sampson [44:23]
she you know, she was like 12 or 13 years old like we know we don’t know for sure people don’t always know their age in rural Kenya but but you know, you think the courage and fortitude of that little girl to stand up and take on the community like that it’s it’s beyond inspiring I think and and that you know, the rest of these these little girls so similarily sort of risen to the challenge and and I do think you know, if those little girls can can do it, then you know, the least that we can do is support their their quest for justice.
David Ralph [44:57]
such amazing work, you’re doing And just the fact that you’re willing to tackle it, and then I can see it, I can see it one country will be led by another country in another country. Can you see the time in your lifetime? Hopefully, you’re going to live for a long time now, but can you see it? It will spread and it will sort of reach around it with Join Up Dots around the world.
Fiona Sampson [45:19]
You know, I think it really will the Kenyan police are are keen to work with the equality effect to take leadership and take the initiative to our next partner country. So working peer to peer say with the Kenyan police and say the Malian police and with the equality effect facilitating and, and that is very encouraging to us and and so constructive because I think we could litigate this country to country and we’ve been invited to to take the initiative all around the world to Central America, the Middle East, and, you know, China and Nepal, but but it is really much more effective to work constructively with the you know, through the training and the education. Using the laws the the focus but but i think i think there is real potential for huge huge change and and it’s very encouraging.
David Ralph [46:11]
Well unusually for this show we normally peppering with motivational speeches, but I’ve been sowing fraud with the conversation. I haven’t got around to doing it to be honest. But I’m gonna, I’m gonna play the theme of the show. And these are the words that Steve Jobs said over 10 years ago now, and I’m really sort of reflecting on how they might have influenced you. Maybe you haven’t heard them or whether you’ve been on a similar journey, but this is Steve Jobs.
Unknown Speaker [46:36]
Of course, it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college, but it was very, very clear looking backwards. 10 years later. Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something, your gut, destiny life, karma, whatever Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well worn path. And that will make all the difference.
David Ralph [47:11]
So when you listen to those words, are they reflective of your own life?
Fiona Sampson [47:16]
Yeah, yeah, no, I see something, for sure that that resonates and, and that that is relevant, I think, you know, embracing opportunities where you are uncomfortable and you know, maybe the the sort of, and I’m worn path is is difficult, I think in the moment but but hugely worthwhile and you know, in reflection and and that’s you know, I think that’s a hard lesson to to learn and really hard to appreciate. When you’re in the moment and I’m not sure that I have at all fully, you know, fully embraced that that lesson but, but I think it is a truism
David Ralph [47:59]
and What would be your big dot that really has moved you on?
Fiona Sampson [48:05]
You know, I think from those early early days when, when I was outside and I don’t know if there’s time, I can tell, you know, a quick story but I’m
David Ralph [48:15]
at a time in the world is my show.
Fiona Sampson [48:19]
That is excellent. That’s an excellent option. So I was annoyed, I
David Ralph [48:23]
don’t charge by the hour, you know.
Fiona Sampson [48:26]
So I was about six years old and, and I was, I was going to, to have free swim at the local pool and lined up with with all the all the little local friends and and there was a new kid, new little girl who, who had arrived in the, in the neighbourhood in the community. And, and we’re buddied up because you have to be buddied up to get into the into the swim, and she noticed my thalidomide damage and shriek scream. jumped back in whore. And. And this, of course is horrific for me. But one of the older girls behind us in the line leaned forward and said to the new girl who was, was having this quite extreme, unpleasant reaction, she leaned forward and said, Dad, don’t worry. She said, I had the same reaction The first time I noticed. And I remember at six years old thinking like, What the hell are you doing consoling her like I’m the one that’s been offended here. Like, I’m the one that’s on the outside. You’re consoling her. And I remember being ticked off and so the swim instructor came out to let us into the pool. And, and I said, I wasn’t going with my buddy and she said, You got to go in with your buddy. And I said, No, I’m not going with her. And she said you have to and there was this sort of stand down and and I remember the instructor looking at me and just thinking like, I’m not I’m not dealing with this. I’m not gonna take this on and she said, Fine, you know, I could, I could go on my own. And I remember thinking like, that was a little victory in that moment. But I also remember thinking, you know, I was alone and, you know it. It was it was a victory but but I needed allies and and i think that has been a huge lesson for me doing the work of the equality effect, having these allies all around the world, this these, this huge team of primarily volunteers because we’re very lean operation. It It has made all the difference and and I think the opportunity to work collaboratively and cooperatively. It has been huge and and I would, you know, I would that that is sort of a sort of quintessential moment for me that resonates looking back for for different reasons. But, but really taking me to the point where I think my natural instinct is to, you know, is to, to stand up and speak that truth to power but to do it collaboratively is really very rewarding.
David Ralph [51:00]
powerful story and it is so interesting how many of our our formative moments really push us on done then when we look back on our lives we can really see at a very early stage the path was almost clear to us
Fiona Sampson [51:14]
you know, I think that’s right and i think like that little girl like in the in the lineup for the the pool like I kind of love her I love that she was you know, so defiant and and so independent and, and maybe a little bit like Millie like not you know, not at all the same extreme disadvantage but but you know, brave and in her in her solitude there and, and so it. Yeah, it is it is sort of a moment that kind of connects me to other moments for sure.
David Ralph [51:46]
Well, we’re going to send you back in time now because it’s the end of the show, and it’s the part that we called a sermon and the MC and we’re going to send you back in time to have a one on one with your younger self. You might choose that six year old in the swimming pool or another version of yourself, but I’m going to play the theme tonight. When it fades Europe, this is the Sermon on the mic.
Fiona Sampson [52:28]
I think you know, the the if I had the opportunity to, to speak to my younger self and and to engage with that younger self I think I would, I would give a huge high five and an enthusiastic hug to the to that little girl that that stood up and and was defiant in the in the face of in the face of oppression and in the face of power that that was under Just and, and I think, you know, being alone in those moments looking back at it, you know, it would would have been reaffirming to have an adult actually expressed that kind of support but, but, you know, I guess what, what doesn’t What doesn’t kill you it doesn’t make you stronger and it definitely, definitely made me stronger. So, so I think I would, I would say congratulations and that that it it it is it is true that that these these moments do do provide growth opportunities and you know, all that sounds a little comfort I think when you know when you’re six years old, but but knowing that, that that good things will will eventually will eventually come of it. I would Yeah, I would I would be hugely affirmative of, of that little girl in the same way that the, you know, the 160 girls in Kenya and and disadvantaged girls around the world who are are so brave and strong to stand up to, to the disadvantage they’ve experienced into demand justice, I think. I think that’s that’s inspirational So, so I would I would take that that positive message back there.
David Ralph [54:30]
Fiona How can our audience connect with you
Fiona Sampson [54:34]
so we are available to connect with through our website at the equality effect.org and we’re also on Facebook and and we are very happy to connect internationally and that would be fabulous to hear from people
David Ralph [54:52]
will have a link on the show notes. Fiona, thank you so much for spending time with us today at joining those dots. Please come back again when you have more dots to join. Because I do believe that by joining up the dots and connecting our past is the best way to build our futures beyond a Samson. Thank you so much.
Fiona Sampson [55:09]
Great. Thank you, David.
David Ralph [55:12]
Thanks for listening to today’s episode of Join Up Dots brought to you exclusively by podcast is mastery.com. The only resource that shows you how to create a show, build an income and still have time for the life that you love. Check out podcasters mastery.com
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