Milestones in Ending Female Genital Mutilation

By Ann Wambui

The Anti-Female Genital Mutilation strategic documents were launched at Laico Regency Hotel by Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs Prof. Margaret Kobia on December 14, 2018.

The Anti-FGM board in partnership with United Nation International Children Emergency Fund(UNICEF) and United Nations Funds for Population Activities (now United Nations Populations Fund)(UNFPA) compiled the materials together for publishing through the assistance of organizations and practitioners in the fight against FGM. These documents include Anti-FGM Board Progress Report (2014-2017), Guidelines for Conducting Alternative Rites of Passage, a portable Kenya Prohibition of FGM ACT, 2011, Resource Mobilization strategy as well as a colorful and informative children’s book about FGM.

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“It starts by the girl being laid down on her back and the circumciser begins to work on her, after which later on the cut is covered by a charcoal-like paste which is a mixture of Hildid and Malmal (a Somali Herb), to help in healing. Her legs are then tied together all the way down to help in putting the paste to place and she is left for about a week. The cutters, usually old women come to check on the healing progress and if all is well, the girl is allowed to join other girls as a “complete” woman. If the wound is not healed, she will have to stay in the segregated room until she is ‘discharged’ ”, narrated Sadia Hussein, Coordinator of Dayaa Women Group.

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This is a group of FGM survivors who have pledged not to allow their daughters to “face the knife” and are running community led activities in Tana River to sensitize community members against FGM. Hussein called upon community elders and religious leaders to stop putting women through pain while going through womanhood and motherhood.

Key stakeholders and partners with the Anti-FGM board are calling upon related ministries in the national government to combine their efforts in making Kenya realize the dream of an FGM free country. UNFPA representative Ademola Olajide asked the Ministry of Health to be very firm in the campaign as reliable data lies with them because when a mother goes to a clinic or a hospital for delivery services, doctors are able to tell if a mother has been cut or not. This data would help in research and also in finding out what statistics there are, monitoring and upgrade of services to safeguard women and girls.

“More than 50% of Kenya’s population is women and therefore it would be difficult to make national changes if women are not part of decision making. We need to guarantee women and girls their rights and provide assurance that their participation is appreciated and taken into account.”

The room filled with representatives from across the counties especially FGM hotspots, Ijara Constituency MP Hon. Sophia Abdi called upon the devolvement of the Anti-FGM board in these marked areas to ensure that the grassroots are well covered in terms of support and aid.

“The times to stay in board rooms have to change and have chairs and CEO’s going to the field and working from there.”

MP Abdi assured to use her voice in forums to bring leaders together and work with Parliamentarians to mobilize resources much needed in the affected societies.

“As an FGM survivor, I had to table my experience in Parliament while I sought support. We need proper resources to finish this work.”
Principal Secretary State Department of Gender Affairs Hon. Safina Kwekwe,noted that times are changing and so as practitioners, the rules of the game have to change as well in terms of how FGM is being discouraged. “The FGM act has existed for 7 years now but some areas which had 0% prevalence are now practicing.” She stated that it is for a fact that some areas in Kenya for example Bungoma, are now mutilating girls unlike how it was before. Some of the hotspot areas are not getting the cover they should be getting and thus girls continue to suffer in the hands of traditional customs.

Moving to cut the ribbon and officially declaring these documents launched, Prof. Kobia asked individuals present to utilize available resources and encourage women, community elders and men to hold discussions with girls and other community members against the practice of FGM, stating that FGM ends with us.

“I have confidence that this launch will serve its purpose for substantial reduction of prevalence rates of FGM in Kenya.”

#EndFGM

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