By Ann Wambui
For decades, the Government of Kenya and other organizations have been at the forefront in the fight against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Kenya and other hot spots across the world.
The movement and campaigns towards putting an end to this global issue has seen an overall decline in the prevalence of FGM over the last three decades, but not all countries have made progress and the pace of decline has been uneven. The exact number of girls and women worldwide who have undergone FGM remains unknown, but it estimate that at least 200 million girls and women have been cut in 30 countries with representative data on prevalence. (UNICEF)
The Girl Generation(TGG) held a two-day country Reflection and Sustainability workshop on November 12 & 13, at Southern Sun Mayfair Nairobi, bringing stakeholders, the Youth Anti-FGM Network and partners together as the organization celebrated four years of working in Kenya’s grass roots to end FGM in this generation.
The workshop involved critical reflections and debates of how the #EndFGM campaign has performed in the counties identified as hot spots for this practice and identifying change in trends and how to tackle them moving forward in 2019, despite the program closing for Phase 1.
During the discussions, it was noted that some communities have changed their doing of things and have resulted to cutting girls at midnight hours when no one is paying attention and have scrapped off the “usual” celebrations to withdraw attention. This was confirmed by FGM survivor and Coordinator at Dayaa Women Group Sadia Hussein, who said the same trends have been witnessed in her area of work Tana River county.
It was also mentioned that medicalisation of FGM is being used as an alternative by practicing communities and the nurses are now doing home visits to avoid raising attention and that girls are now being mutilated one at a time unlike before where they had to wait during the holidays and do it in a large group. This was also confirmed by Program Officer at Pastoralist Girls Initiative, Qamar Kassim.
In response to this, participants agreed to increase community dialogues with elders who have high respect in power and more youth involvement in the movement as this helps in providing people whom girls can be comfortable to relate to easily and to open up to, as well as youths are more vibrant in spearheading and mobilizing others to join in the fight against FGM.
According to Kenya Demographics and Health Survey (KDHS), it is estimated that prevalence rate of FGM in Kenya dropped from 32% (2003) to 21% (2014), although this is questionable since some regions like North Eastern are reported to have 98% prevalence rates. By ethnic group, most prevalent are Somali women (93.6%), Samburu (86%), Kisii (84.4%) and Maasai (77.9%).
The National Legislation banning FGM was passed in 2001 followed by the amendment of the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act in 2011, however, very few perpetrators have been prosecuted with this crime. The lead contribution is that community members do not report and by the time it is realized by authorities it is late to start up a case. In my opinion, if the law clearly stated that the perpetrators would not be allowed bail, then maybe the process to these prosecutions would be bearing fruits. Once there is a window for one to pay bail, everything presented for the case becomes compromised, including the girl who’s rights were violated.
In regards to taking measures to increase sustainability of the movements objectives and end goal, engagement of the media was agreed to be key as there are already available mediums to pass information about the effects of FGM on girls and women and it would increase visibility. Different organizations working with the same focus should pool their resources together and support each other with the activities carried out at the grass root level, rather than competing on who is going to do the job best. Passion and commitment to ensuring that Kenya gets to the 0 mark in FGM practices was taken up to be the first initiative as this will drive people’s agenda knowing that there is a collective responsibility to give girls hope and an environment to positively grow without cultural bondage. Policy makers and implementors should join hands with organizations fighting to end FGM as they have the influence in different communities. This should also be accompanied by ACTIONS and not just words to please masses.
“Ending FGM is not a one man’s show and therefore we need collaboration to enable us strengthen our efforts to giving girls a good base to a better future. The community person at the grass root level is key to unlock the fight. This fight starts with me and FGM ends with us all,” Youth Anti-FGM Network and TGG Ambassador Peter Macharia.
Female Genital Mutilation is the partial or total removal of the extreme female genitalia, or injury to female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It in internationally recognized as a violation of the human rights of girls and women (According to World Health Organization). It is classified into four types;
Type I: Partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or the prepuce.
Type II: Partial or total removal of the clitoris and labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora.
Type III: Narrowing of the vaginal orifice by cutting and bringing together the labia minora and/or the labia majora to create a type of seal, with or without excision of the clitoris. In most instances, the cut edges of the labia are stitched together, which is referred to as ‘infibulation’.
Type IV: All other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, for example: pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterization.
The Girl Generation is the world’s largest collective of organizations working together with an African led movement to end Female Genital Mutilation in this generation applying the “Do No Harm Approach” principle.
“Even as phase 1 of this campaign comes to an end, we will continue to search and secure resources to support the end of FGM in Kenya,” TGG Global Director, Dr Faith Mwangi.
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