FGM Campaign under scrutiny:Kenya


By Lorna Andisi 

 

 

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Photo Courtesy

This year marks seven years since the law prohibiting the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) was passed in Kenya-The Anti-FGM Act 2011; an achievement that was celebrated across the country and beyond. The significant move was to mark the beginning of emancipation if not reprieve for thousands of girls who were at high risk of undergoing FGM and probable early marriage; deep rooted cultures among certain communities in Kenya.
Alongside the new law criminalizing FGM, a specific institution was put in place; (The Kenya Anti-FGM Board) with the aim of coordinating activities and programs that would accelerate the abandonment of the practice. As part of its mandate, the Board and its partners has been instrumental in supporting directly or indirectly all programs geared towards rooting out the practice. Both government and non-governmental organizations carried out workshops to sensitize communities, judges, magistrates and the police about the law and the legal pathways. The media also played its role in creation of awareness. The public is currently more aware about FGM being a human rights violation and a good number of perpetrators are aware of the consequences that might befall them if caught.
The campaign also attracted support from different development actors. Both bilateral and multilateral donors curved in to accelerate efforts towards the abandonment of FGM practice. In particular, UN agencies made and followed through with commitments to elbow their support in actualizing the new law. This double advantage of the law and donor funds provided Anti FGM civil society actors working at both the national and mostly grassroot level the much-needed impetus to push through campaigns.
In the era of the world wide web and social media, the onslaught on FGM found useful collaborators. Activists mostly young people and key board warriors (bloggers & vloggers) bought into and promoted various aspects of the campaign. Creating presence and visibility, these new media activists propelled anti-FGM conversations thus keeping the campaign fresh and adaptable to the emerging changes.
Amidst these positive developments, there have been instances where the campaign faltered leading to poorly conceptualized and executed strategies, individual benefit, unclear outcomes and reverse capture. This article attempts to unravel some of these short comings. Material was sourced from individual interviews, Social media posts, personal experiences and various documented reports.
Insufficient Data
The Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS) documents that the national prevalence of FGM has been on a steady decline from a high of 32 per cent in 2003 and 27 per cent in 2008/9 to stand at 21 per cent in 2014. However, these figures betray the fact that Kenya lacks a well-established FGM baseline or a monitoring framework. Similarly, a briefing note published by UNFPA and UNICEF in 2015 showed female genital mutilation prevalence remained very high amongst the Somali (at 94%), Samburu (86%), Kisii (84%), and Maasai at (78%). This report however failed to indicate the prevalence of FGM in the other communities that carry out the practice.
The big question is, has any impactful gain in the fight against FGM been made? Whereas the KDHS numbers shown above indicate that there is a significant change, in the communities, this change is not reflected.

In other instances, organizations seemed to have data that only catered for their own narrow interests. Other cases pointed to lack of well aggregated data related to effects of FGM such as data on maternal mortality caused by FGM in specific practicing communities.

This lack of sufficient solid quantitative data indicates that organizations are spending donor resources that are not well backed by tangible evidence.
Furthermore, where data related to FGM has been captured, for instance prosecutions and convictions under the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, it has not been used effectively to influence budgets, improve programming and policy enforcement. This lack of evidence-based programming is also a result of the low threshold set by donors, who are more interested in activity-based approach towards ending FGM as opposed to impact based.

 

Briefcase Organizations

With both the law in place and available funds dedicated to eradicating FGM, both national and grassroots organizations emerged with dubious intentions. Even though various quotas have had knowledge of their existence, it is until recent that the Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS), in the Ministry of Public Service, Gender and Youth: Hon Rachel Shebesh publicly condemned them and said that the government had launched a crackdown to nab them. https://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2018/04/21/briefcase-ngos-using-anti-fgm-campaign-to-fleece-donors-shebesh_c1747435

Similar media reports have also been made regarding the same issue:https://www.nation.co.ke/news/regional/1070-828494-9sp28fz/index.html
Steve Letoo, 30, from Oloitoktok, Kajiado County revealed that he was shocked at how a particular organization was exploiting locals most of whom are illiterate. Steve being a little internet savvy said, “I am always shocked by the kind of work this guy says he does on Facebook and twitter. It’s nothing but Public Relations. There is no significant work on the ground. He takes photos of poor girls and posts them on Facebook and twitter claiming he is supporting them. If you question him he becomes angry.”
Similarly, The Youth Anti-FGM Network Kenya was described as not only ineffective but also inefficient.The network launched in 2015 had a bigger vision of ending FGM in Kenya by bringing together young people from FGM affected communities around the country to consolidate efforts towards ending the practice out of the country but that dream is far from being realized. Its flamboyance on social media is nothing close to what the real network does.
According to a former member, the networks’ vision was quickly muffled after they ‘sold their souls’ to an Options UK program. Though most of the members were opposed to the move that would jeopardize their vision, anyone voicing contrary opinion was quickly ousted from the group by the leaders. Currently the network is known to have two active members one based in Nairobi and the chairperson based in Garissa, Kenya. The chairperson has very little concern about fighting the FGM practice out of his community let alone the country. In flagrant case of abuse of office, the said chairperson is evidently absent pursuing personal interests. No significant impact can be measured since the launch of the network.

 

Misappropriation of Funds

Another significant shortcoming relates to grassroots organizations that have been known to misuse funds meant for saving girls from the cut. In Loitoktok Kajiado, we unraveled that a popular CBO whose founder is conspicuously missing from the community after embezzling almost 1M shillings received from The Girl Generation grant kitty, monies that were meant to run a project aimed at bringing together morans to dialogue towards the end of FGM in Loitoktok. He represents many more individuals who walk scot-free after committing such crimes.ccc
The conversation that started a few weeks ago with the above tweet has revealed that there is a lot of business going on in the disguise of advocacy to end FGM. It sparked a lot of reactions from locals and even the international front and especially complaints that these organizations are exploiting girls and women. Here are a few reactions:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is apparent is that these trips and conferences are viewed as an avenue by campaigners to earn per diems, tour the world, shop and mingle in the name of ending FGM.
Another emerging issue relates to the programme design whereby significant amount of funds were expended on operational costs in donor countries rather than on actual programme work in recipient countries. Case in point was the Global Media Campaign, which has an office in the UK but has no physical address in Africa. This not only creates a distance between them and the communities where they supposedly work but also complicates activists’ relationship with regulatory authorities.
Deceptive Strategies
Whereas there have been some strategies designed to end FGM that actually proved to work with much felt/measurable impact on the ground, others ended up creating more harm than good. This was especially with regards to top down strategies that either lacked community input or were not community led. In other instances, the campaign against FGM was more opportunistic and not strategic. This was especially true for a number national CSO’s which stumbled on the campaign only to later abandon FGM programming and targeted communities altogether. Among the most prominent was Maendeleo ya Wanawake which changed course mid-stream in 2013, thus denying the campaign its vast grassroot network.
Narrating a deceptive strategy, a village elder, Peter Lemaiyan 78, Samburu East, expressed disappointment about an incident that took place in December 2017. According to the elder, girls from his community were ferried to an apparently very big alternative rites of passage ceremony without his knowledge. He also said that the girls’ parents were unaware that their girls were going for the ceremony, only to be misinformed that it was normal vacation studies. On learning about the occasion at their return, he became very angry and ordered for their cut the very night. Defiant girls were cursed and up to date he has not lifted the curse that he cast upon them.
He said that local administration officers across Samburu are aware and also benefit from the so called alternative rites of passage and the games involved. He has warned activists from his community to disassociate with the two big organizations that claim to be saving girls yet they are using them for their own gains.
Speaking to a local activist and survivor from Samburu who asked for anonymity, she said that such phoniness has made it hard for genuine activists to be trusted by locals thereby making their work so difficult. She however urges NGOs to consider working with activists on the ground for they know best what can possibly work in their respective communities.
Saiyanka, an activist from Kajiado terms the same strategy deceptive, a lie and often the number of girls graduating is not true at all. He says; “It’s unfortunate that this is being driven by big NGOs here. The community knows that the girls are already cut. This makes them think badly of us, that we are not genuine. It’s a very selfish way of doing things. Anything cultural cannot be fixed this way, it must be dialogued”
Our investigation revealed that a recent ARP ceremony in Indupa, Kilonito, Kajiado West that claimed to have ‘saved’ over 300 girls from FGM was a lie, the locals are very aware that only 2 girls in the whole village are uncut, and it’s only because they have not attained the right age, for FGM here is 100%.
Other strategies such as social change communication have remained a vocabulary across most of the activists that have received training. Many activists who requested anonymity stated that such big terms scare and confuse them.
Another major concern regarding anti-FGM campaigns stemmed from the temporary nature of activities characterized by short bursts of intensity that quickly fade. In this regard, numerous conferences have been organized in the name of “sharing experiences” which never cascade to the micro level where it matters. This is because a lot of the anti-FGM actors prefer to work in silos with a lot of opacity.
Conclusion
According to the Paris declaration on aid effectiveness, two of the major objectives of good aid include;

  • fostering recipient’s ownership of development policies and strategies;
  • improving aid transparency and mutual accountability of donors and recipients.

The emerging scenario in the anti-FGM campaigns point to a lack of ownership of strategies because of poor conceptualization, lack of research and over reliance on dubious grassroot organizations/ individuals not based in the respective communities. The anti-FGM campaign has also created a less transparent relationship between donors, implementers and communities. In effect, donor funding has fostered strong resentment of genuine development aid organizationsand actors in practicing communities. This is contrary to the principles of do no harm. What this brief has unraveled has ended up raising more questions than answers. The scrutiny of the anti-FGM campaign in Kenya was not meant to be exhaustive as that would require more time and resources. Some of the questions that would require further interrogation are elucidated below;

 

KEY QUESTIONS ARISING
➢Does the Anti-FGM Board, an institution mandated with regulating and coordinating activities and programs that are meant to drive the practice away have the requisite capacity?
➢Do donors carry out audits and perform due diligence before dispatching funds?
➢Do funding models consider the amount of money lost before reaching the ultimate beneficiary?
➢Do most of these programs have a sustainability model or are they just touch and go thereby exploiting communities?
And finally, do anti-FGM campaigners really want FGM to end? Does it mean that if the funding stops then the campaigners will stop doing their work in the communities? What motivates anti-FGM campaigners to continue doing their work?

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“Talking Boxes” a voice for Kibera girls

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Eva Bowa, Program Officer, Polycom Development Project Opening up one of the talking boxes at Spurgeons Primary School.

Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya…

Off Olympic road on the left, a busy, noisy packed street with tiny squeezed shops on both sides punctuated by pedestrians briskly walking up and down as though they are running late for something……Both men and women vendors consumed in their daily hustles……Piercing noises and glittering sparks of fire by welders springing across the road…..Smell of fried ‘chapatis’ and ‘mandazis’ consuming the air around while screams of children playing at a nearby school-Olympic primary school-engulfing the whole neighborhood ……. This street will lead you to a Centre of hope and voice for thousands of young girls and adolescents living in Kibera.

300 Metres, right before the street takes a mighty curve. You will find a ruby rugged gate, paint peeled off. Not to judge. What lies inside is much greater-Polycom Development Project office. Err…Still hard to figure out what goes on there? On a closer look signs displayed on the door and walls- ‘Speak Out!… ‘Sitakimya’ meaning ‘I won’t be silenced’ suggest that it is an empowerement Centre. Right guess!

A charming Jane Anyango- Director Polycom Development, seated at the furthest corner right after you enter the building will gladly fill you in about what the project is all about..

Polycom Development project is one unique project that was started to ‘break the silence’ on Sexual, Gender Based Violence among children and adolescents in Kibera.

The project adopted a secretive ‘talking box’ approach to allow girls who would otherwise shy away from sharing their issues (especially GBV related) to confidently draft a note and drop it in the emblematic box.

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A sample of a note from Spurgeons primary school, talking box

In an interview with Jane at her Office, she revealed to me that the innocent project started seven years ago and was piloted in 14 schools, which after one year it scaled down to 7 schools, because some schools did not embrace it well and also some parents were against the initiative citing that it was a project meant to ‘use their children’ . She did not lose hope.

She further confirmed that they are currently working with16 schools and are scaling up to 34 more schools which will bring the total number to 50 schools, thanks to her recent partner, UNFPA Kenya.

She informed me that at first, they used carton boxes which did not function well because dubious persons broke into the boxes. She later got a volunteer who made them wooden boxes with safety padlocks but they still do not guarantee 100% safety.

She is glad about the recent partnership with UNFPA Kenya, for they have pledged to support production of 50 metallic boxes that will guarantee, not only safety but longevity.

Benefits of the ‘talking boxes’

 

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Teachers, pupils Spurgeons Primary School

Teacher Rose Okeya also a counsellor and Social Worker at Spurgeons Primary School- A beneficiary of the project, confirmed that the project has brought about behavior change among pupils. She has observed girls at the school being able to open up and speak out on all issues ranging from SGBV, Sexual Reproductive Health and menstrual matters. Additionally, with follow up, she has observed girls perform well in studies.

She said that the project has been able to detect, curb and resolve issues raised, most common being issues of gender based violence, especially sexual harassment among peers in school, including sexual harassment by teachers, guardians and neighbors.

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Another note!

For issues that require much more attention the project reaches out to relevant persons or authorities for further help.

‘The project has been very successful. We have beautiful success stories and we are in fact coming up with our own research to challenge existing results.’ Said Jane.

Jane observed that while dealing with cases of SGBV, a lot of focus is always directed to perpetrators than survivors. She called upon donors and service providers to understand the importance of working with survivors, for they bear the pain. Especially cases where the victim might never access Justice whenever the family resorts to resolving the issue amicably- which is a normal avenue for resolving GBV cases within family set up.

Jane always urges parents, during parents-teacher meetings not to be very harsh to their children. She encourages them to be friendly with their children in order to establish rapport with them. The amicable environment will enable them to share their issues freely with them. Above all, she urges them to create time for their children amid their busy schedule. She understands that the economic burden and the need to provide is huge on them but they have to sacrifice some time for their children.. Her dream is to see the project expand beyond Kibera.

India’s deep seated cultural norms, an obstacle to gender equality & Development

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Chittorgarh Form Village Lifestyle. Photo credit: Christine Delginiesse

Discrimination against women and girls is a Pervasive and long-running phenomenon that characterizes Indian society at every level.

India’s progress towards gender equality, by rankings such as the Gender Development Index has been rather disappointing, despite fairly rapid rates of economic growth.

A recent survey shows, in the past decade, while Indian GP has grown by around 6%, there has been a large decline in female labor force participation, from 34% to 27%. The male-female wage gap has been stagnant at 50%, same survey also indicates a 27% gender gap in white collar jobs.

Some of the inherent cultures that exacerbate gender inequalities include; Khatna/(Female Genital Mutilation) inheritance through male descendants and patrilocality (married couples living with their husbands parents), a culturally ingrained parental preference of sons stemming from their importance as caregivers in old age, the dowry system, involving a cash or in kind payment from the brides family to the grooms at the time of marriage is an institution that disempowers women. It does often result in dowry related violence against women by their husbands and in-laws if the dowry is considered insufficient or as a way to demand more payments.

Crimes against women such as rape, dowry deaths and honor killings are common in India. These trends are disturbing as a natural prediction would be that with growth comes education and prosperity. The chief barriers to realizing gender equality in India are deep seated cultural norms. Despite the millions of dollars poured into development in India, significant change is yet to come about, particularly in regards to Indian culture. When Empowerent conflicts with Indian culture, it’s not well received. It is well into 21st century, it’s deep rooted tradition has slowed its pace on others.

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Monumental Taj Mahal, India photo credit: Chrsitine Delginiesse

For india to mantain its position as a global leader, more concerted efforts at local and national level, and by private sector are needed to bring women to parity with men

While  increasing representation of women in the public spheres, it is important and can be particularly attained through some of affirmative action. An attitudinal shift is essential for women to be considered as equal within their homes and in broader society. Men also need to realize that women can work without sacrificing their families and their responsibilities in the home. There is an urgent need to disrupt the  system of cultural norms inindia that keep women surbodinate.

Educating Indian children from an early age about the importance of gender equality could be a meaningful start in that direction!

 

Africa Based Journalists urged to increase reportage of SRHR issues

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Some of the journalists from Africa interviewing IPPFAR Director, Lucien Kouakou at Double-Tree hotel, Nairobi

23rd February 2018, journalists across Africa-Togo, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Kenya- converged at a Nairobi hotel, Double-Tree, to share experiences, challenges and lessons learnt in covering Sexual Reproductive Health Rights stories as well as chart the way forward on the same.

The meeting convened by International Planned Parenthood Federation Africa Region (IPPFAR) and Member Associations (MAs) aimed at galvanizing journalists across Africa to prioritize factual reportage of SRHR issues, giving it the attention that it deserves.

In Africa, sex and related subjects are deemed taboo. Such discussions are not held openly, at family level, at school and even in churches. As a result, young people and even adults suffer the consequences! There also exist various myths and stereotypes around the subject. Journalists are therefore expected to ‘Break the Silence’ by covering these issues with an aim of creating awareness through the various mediums; both online and offline. It is however important that journalists learn and understand Sexual Reproductive Health issues so that they know how to frame better messages to reach the various key publics.

Lilian Magezi, a journalist from Uganda said unless she uses better approaches in relaying her stories-such as linking SRHR issues to a rather development perspective- then her stories risk getting published. ‘I have many a times been faulted for promoting ‘bad behavior’ , Said Lilian. Lilian’s case is an example of challenges that journalists grapple with during their work, especially from a revisionist movement.

Addressing the journalists, Lucien Kouakou, IPPF Regional/Africa Director encouraged journalists to set a deliberate and sustained agenda on SRHR reporting so that their stories influence the formation and implementation of both national and regional policies. He asked journalists to research on key indicators and government policies related to young people’s SRHR in order to measure the extent of rights’ violations in their respective countries. He further asked journalists to explore and critique policies on SRHR, including a review of international or regional SRHR commitments in order to ensure accountability.

“As journalists you have a role to highlight the realities on the ground, hence probing whoever is dropping the ball” Said Mr. Kouakou

Mr Koaukou was also present for a week-long meeting with Regional Member Associations  (MAs) and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) working on SRHR Issues across Africa who were also in Nairobi for a Planning, Advocacy & Communication roadmap meeting. The MAs, CSOs and journalists plan to work together to strengthen their work on the ground and set sexual reproductive health as an agenda for governments.

“It is apparent that there is a gap between the signing of documents (laws) and the actual implementation. Unless all the relevant sectors work together, SRHR issues will continue to endanger lives of women and vulnerable people” Said Mr. Cesaire Pooda, Senior Advisor-Communications IPPF, in a separate interview.

IPPFAR, MAs also announced a yearly award program where they plan to honor journalists who will put in extra effort in covering SRHR stories, as a way to motivate them.

The Youth Meeting

Similarly, young people across Africa under the IPPFAR program also held a concurrent meeting in Nairobi to seek consensus on how to address the challenges that they are facing.

Young people in Africa face numerous challenges on sexual reproductive health. These challenges come in form of lack of appropriate information on access to and rights about sexual and reproductive health care, or if information is available, it is often misleading. There also exists challenges with social attitudes, stigmatization and a society afraid to face the truth.

In an interview with journalists, Risto Mushongo, National SRH Community Outreach Youth/Adolescent Coordinator in Namibia working with Namibia Planned Parenthood Association (NAPPA) disclosed how cases of HIV/AIDS, teenage pregnancy and school dropout have significantly dropped in his country ever since the government legislated on Comprehensive Sex Education (CSE) in schools and out of school- which is mandatory for every young person in Namibia.

Mushongo, a member of a vibrant youth movement in Namibia advices that young people should be allowed to make their own informed decisions. He however advocates for youth friendly and accessible services.

CSW62,To give hope to rural women and girls in Africa

 

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CSOs meeting in Nairobi during the Pre-CSW conference

Feb 19th- 20th, Over 40 Africa womens’ rights organizations convened at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for a regional meeting with an aim to agree on priorities over issues that affect women and girls in rural areas across Africa.

The conference (#CSWAfrica) hosted by the Africa Womens’ Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) together with Africa’s steering committee and delegates purposed to set the agenda straight ahead of the UN Commission on Status of Women (CSW62) coming up next month.The theme; Securing Africa Rural Women Footprint at CSW62 and beyond, was in line with this years’ CSW priority theme- Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and empowerement of rural girls and women.

The strategic meeting mainly called upon African rural women to share their realities to influence policies that could lead to achieving gender equality.

It is important to note that rural women constitute one-fourth of worlds population. They are leaders,producers and service providers. Over years, their contribution has been found to be very vital to the well-being of families, communities, economies and the overall achievement of the Millenium Development Goals (MDG’s) and Agenda 2063.

Moreover, rural women account for a significant proportion of the agricultural labour force and produce the majority of food grown, especially in subsistance farming, and still perform most of the unpaid care work. Yet their rights and contributions have largely been overlooked.

Rural women continue to experience unequal opportunities in access to healthcare, sexual reproductive health needs,  education, infrastructure, food security, nutrition, technology and general access to information. Sadly, they often bare the brunt of gender based violence, sexual exploitation, harmful cultures such Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), child and forced marriages and subsequently denied access to justice.

A good number of rural women face more difficulties than men in accessing public services, social protection, employment and markets due to cultural norms, security issues and the formidable lack of identification documents. Women without Identification cards cannot access health, education, pensions, application for property title or deeds and other social services in addition to their ability to vote!

Additionally, while women have equal property ownership and inheritance rights, gender disparities in land holdings persist worldwide.

Whereas governments have put in place various legislations and policies to protect the rights of rural women and girls, their realization still remains a pipe dream due to lack of awareness among these groups. Again, continued gender imbalances and partriachy jeopardize the realization of these existing laws and policies.

Such conferences provide a great platform for nations to deliberate towards the acceleration and implementation of the Beijing Declaration among other regional and global declarations geared towards the achievement of gender equality. CSW62 offers a perfect opportunity for building alliances to achieve gender equality and empower rural women and girls.

Continue reading “CSW62,To give hope to rural women and girls in Africa”

#9 Reasons why we could be losing the fight against #FGM

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Some of the tools used for female genital cutting

Today marks three years since I actively joined the #EndFGM movement in Kenya.

Ever since I learnt of the practice, I purposed to make a personal contribution towards its eradication. I have been a passionate activist and blogger against the practice; writing for my site and guest blogging for a couple of other sites, touching on various areas around FGM, Child /forced Marriage.

Nonetheless, my consistent focus on the issue has spiraled me to becoming a top authority figure in the field; https://agilience.com/en/komba_lorna, meaning I can authoritatively speak about the subject from an informed perspective, without fear or favor.

Over the years , I have observed the the bandwagon make progress and also falter along the way. Indeed both quantifiable and non-quantifiable progress has been made especially in terms of awareness creation through media advocacy, and also through social media channels. There also has been slight progress in terms of enforcement of policies and legislations. In effect, lives have been saved through averted FGM incidents. Additionally, there have been various media reports about girls who were at risk of FGM being able to complete primary/secondary/tertiary education after being spared or being rescued from the cut.

The fight against FGM in Kenya has been and is still receiving tumultuous resistance. A revisionist movement is slowly but surely pushing back. Unless campaigners revisit the journey and make right whatever is wrong, we risk detouring back to the starting point!

My candid observation arrived at 9 main reasons why we could be losing the battle.

#1. Unrealistic, far fetched counteractive strategies for combating FGM

Every practicing community has its own reasons for upholding the practice and would therefore not welcome any other divergent views, even from one of their own. Having stated this, organizations that get through to communities imagining that they know best what the community should do lose terribly. What works for community A might not work for community B. Imposing change on communities only brings forth backlash.

Grassroots organizations often lose it especially when implementing what the donor wants versus doing what is right! Such initiatives are neither community led nor community owned. It’s no wonder you hear of girls undergoing the cut hours after a community public declaration ceremony/ Alternative Rites of passage (ARP) ceremony!

I would wish to focus on this point because I feel here is where we get it wrong! Unless the community takes center stage in leading the fight against FGM, we would rather save the resources or direct them elsewhere.

#2. Tired Reasons for practicing

Well, when I joined the bandwagon, I could almost recite all the reasons as to why FGM should end. These ‘Recitable” reasons make perfect sense to survivors of FGM and those who have second hand experience of FGM. I have not long ago written an article about ‘Changing the FGM conversation’ (https://www.girlsglobe.org/2017/04/21/the-fgm-conversation-has-to-change/) Briefly, (for those who won’t bother with the link) I believe it’s time we moved the conversation from the known health and social cultural issues to a more holistic approach; framing around the socio-economic and political impact of FGM, so that reasons for abolition make sense to every person,young and old. We honestly need to focus on how such cultures obstruct the emancipation of girls and women.

#3. Social media disconnect

Where-as I recommend the use of social media to create awareness on FGM and push for realization of its various agendas through its critical mass as well as exchange of ideas and experiences, the only challenge remains its exclusiveness. Most of the discussions that take place on social media hardly proliferate to the afftected population. It as though the two groups (online and offline) exist in two different worlds, one functioning as the others’ mouthpiece. Social media has also become a place where a lot is said and very little done, where after talking individuals retrieve back to their conform zones-a bickering space, if I may describe it.

How many people in rural Kenya can access internet, let alone afford smartphones. Of course,it is new media but we cannot drive real change without touching and feeling the ground.

#4.  Lack of capacity
There is a ton of campaigners, some of whom are survivors, who have great passion to advocate against the practice but lack the basic know-how. They lack skills to manage organizations and finances that come along . They do not know how to speak on media, they can not monitor and evaluate their projects, they do not know how to embrace technology etc.

#5.  Lack of passion and greed

Similarly, the #EndFGM wagon has been infested by joy riders who are either looking to make a living out of the cause, looking to make a fortune, looking for fame or looking to sabotage the cause! As a result, the latent public is obviously slowing down progress made by the active committed lot.

It is absurd that campaigners compete against each other, organizations compete against each other at the expense of a girls life, instead of working together! This is not a contest!

#6. Loopholes in the law
The 2011 Anti-FGM act as it stands does not satisfactorily secure girls from FGM. We all know where the loopholes are and must work to address them sooner than later. I will not say much about it for fear of contempt of court due to the on-going petition against the FGM law.

#7. Inability to tap into devolution
Ever since Kenya adopted a devolved system of governance, campaigners have been unable to take advantage of the opportunity. Never before have we been closer to the government. The devolved ministries of gender and sports/culture need to be actively engaged. It is a good thing that campaigners can now easily access their leaders. I applaud Kajiado county for fully domesticating the Anti-FGM law, to suit their context.

#8. Lack of political will

If elected leaders made eradication of FGM their priority. It would be a thing of the past. But we all know they will never risk losing their political seats! Very few have publicly spoken against the practice but a majority avoid the subject as a plague!

Well forget number 9. I shall not bring up the common issue of lack of funds. This is the most mundane excuse that I keep hearing. If we seriously want to end FGM, we do not require billions of shillings, we require the will and honest conversations..

Conversations emanating from bottom coming up to the top and not the other way round!

#ZeroToleranceToFGM

 

 

AU Expected to lead the fight against corruption for better Sexual Reproductive Health services in Africa…

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Kadiatou Konate (left) and Djelia Diallo (right), some of the youngest FEMNET members from Guinea during the 31st GIMAC consultative meeting held at UNECA, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

My ‘Writivism’ this year kicked off on a rather high note! Just the right momentum required to roll through the year! Well, In the course of last week, I got an opportunity to participate in a regional dialogue on ‘Ending corruption whilst advancing sexual reproductive health in Africa’. The interactive yet simmering dialogue, convened by Africa Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), in Addis Ababa, brought together Ministers of Gender, young women organizations, United Nations and Africa Union Representatives from women organizations across Africa.

The dialogue which would in turn feed its outcomes to this years’ AU Summit, aimed at providing a platform for women’s rights organizations to interface with policy makers to discuss how to prioritize and finance for sexual reproductive health rights- with the necessary measures to prevent losing the funds through corruption. The dialogue therefore zeroed around the 30th Session of the AU Summit theme; “Winning the fight against corruption: A sustainable path to Africa’s transformation”

Malawi’s Minister Gender Affairs Hon Dr. Jean Kalilani led in the official opening of the dialogue. In her opening remarks, she said,

“ Corruption is destructive and retrogressive to the development of the African Region for it denies men, women and children equitable access to public services such as Sexual reproductive health rights which are core services to women and girls, if these services are unavailable or inaccessible women and girls suffer adverse impacts”

From the discussion, is was apparent that corruption has taken root in public health care institutions, paradoxically, institutions mandated with improving and preserving lives. Without a doubt, there is an urgent need to address such an issue at the helm of millions of lives across Africa.

Public health practitioners and organizations use power and influence to self enrich at the expense of patients. Corrupt activities include bribery, theft, nepotism, kickbacks, embezzlement, bureaucratic activities and misinformation.

Examples shared among the Participants during the dialogue included;

• Charging of services where services are to be procured freely
• Charging exorbitantly
• Referring patients at public hospitals to privately owned (by doctors) clinics
• Sexual exploitation
• Drug and pharmaceutical cartels within the public health system
• Misinformation
• Failing to provide information about Sexual Reproductive Health Services

In these instances, patients are likely to lose lives at the hands of health care providers. Infant mortalities, maternal mortalities,obstructive labor and pregnancy related complications are bound to occur.

Dinah Musindarwezo, Executive Director FEMNET, urged civil society organizations to actively engage policy makers to prioritize focus on sexual reproductive health and ensure that financing of the same is given utmost attention.

1st panelist, Esther Kimani, Program Officer Trust for Indigenous Culture Health (TICAH) suggested for gender responsive budgeting which would in turn increase budget allocation to SRHR programs. She however said that this can only be achieved if women get involved in the budgetary allocation processes.

“Preventing health sector corruption is a complex and difficult task, however audits and accountability should be spearheaded by special units within governments to expose corruption. Anti- corruption laws and regulations need to be enforced and culprits, investigated and expedited” Pointed out Second Panelist, Hanatu Kabbah Program Officer IPAs

Paticipants agreed that policy makers should engage local and traditional leaders who are popularly misguided about sexual reproductive health services. Religious leaders too need to be involved in policy formulation for they have power to disseminate information and power to provide guidance relating to sexual reproductive health rights, to a critical mass.

Additionally, Young people need to actively involve themselves in development of policies to bargain for better budgetary allocations, to provide knowledge on SRH issues that affect them and thereby provide guidance on the way forward.

There is need for governments through responsible ministries to raise awareness about SRHR through education programs in schools and learning institutions. Proper women/youth friendly centers that attend to SRH queries need to be set up. Moreover, there is need to collect concrete data that will inform decision making.

During her speech, Hon. Dr. Kalilani pointed out that her government , Malawi has ratified and domesticated various regional instruments that give SRH a priority and that advocacy should be enhanced to encourage other governments that have not yet ratified to the conventions such as the Maputo Protocol to do so as a commitment to enhancing SRHR for girls and women.

SRHR are related to many aspects including girl child education. Girl Child education is negatively affected by harmful traditional practices, FGM, gender based violence and child marriage. Effective, affirmative provision of sexual and health rights interventions will have a ripple effect across Africa nations.

Lack of access to sexual and reproductive health services contributes to gender inequalities, discrimination, violence and disempowerment of girls and women!

It is estimated that Africa is losing more than USD50bn every year as governments and multinationals companies engage in criminal activities thereby hampering development projects and denying citizens access to crucial resources.

FEMNET, through its most recent press release to the AU has urged for resources lost through corruption to be recovered in Anti-Corruption efforts to replenish the gaps on provision of health care services, education and the establishment of infrastructure to improve the quality of life for its people.

Such recommendations will spearhead for accountable, affordable, sustainable, quality and available sexual reproductive health services across Africa!