The Ultimate Price of FGM

blog pic
A Maasai girl enjoying a good time with a newly born goat

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a human rights violation, torture and an extreme form of violence and discrimination against girls and women-There is no subtle way to describe it!

Sadly, according to World Health Organization (WHO), more than 200 million girls and women GLOBALLY have undergone FGM, worse still, if current trends continue 15 million girls (between ages 15-19) are at risk of undergoing FGM by 2030. In addition, there are numerous documented cases of girls dying each year due to complications arising from FGM but substantial is difficult to come by.

Contrary to popular belief that FGM is ‘a cultural issue”, in reality, it has socio-economic consequences which impacts on the health, education, livelihoods and general well-being of girls and women. In the course of my activism as well as journalism in Kenya, I have come face to face with the impact of FGM on girls and women among the various communities that still perpetuate the practice.

FGM has been deemed to ‘benefit’ girls and women by ensuring chastity and cleanliness as well as a rite of passage in actual sense it is a perpetuation of misogyny, vicious and violent expressions of patriarchy and sexism that lead to the psychological and physical abuse of women.

Without exception, young girls and women carry the economic burden of FGM since the practice denies them an opportunity to access education thus limiting their chances of being economically productive. Moreover lack of education hinders girls from securing formal employment and limits the nature of livelihood activities they can engage in.

Another issue underpinning the continuation of FGM is the equation of girls to commodities. For instance among the Rendile, Pokot and Maasai (pastoralist) communities in Kenya, it is common practice to trade off girls as dowry and as way of replacing livestock lost during drought or through rustling.  As a result, a girl’s education and future is sacrificed at the expense of her father’s quest for wealth.

By the same token, it is well known that circumcisers, often older ladies, have continued the practice not because of their ‘strong’ belief in culture but purely as a means of eking a living out of innocent girls.  For instance, a year ago, a renowned but now reformed cutter, confessed during an interview with me, that she had made so much money out of her business, spanning 30 years. She boasted of having built a permanent house; one of the best in the village. Unfortunately this wealth has been accumulated against a backdrop of over 5000 girls cut- most of whom eventually dropped out of school and are married off at young ages. (https://andisilorna.wordpress.com/2016/12/20/the-chief-ex-cutters-diary-why-i-dropped-the-knife/)

The practice of FGM is also perpetuated by social institutions in practicing communities. In this regard, local level authorities, charged with the responsibility of arresting FGM perpetrators are routinely bribed. One such revelation, from a Chief I interviewed, who confessed of having made ‘a few’ coins of the practice. In deed it emerged that it is common practice for cutters, parents and community elders to bribe chiefs and police to shield them especially during the cutting ceremonies. Additionally, it has been widely documented that most perpetrators walk out of cells scot free for lack of sufficient evidence to support prosecution. In most instances, politicians have been known to interfere with criminal cases by bribing officials who in turn release the perpetrators by slapping a mild cash bail after which most cases fade away.

Lastly, and on a disappointing note, I have heard of individuals purporting to run grassroots organizations that advocate against the practice yet they are a sham. They have no real intentions of ending the practice and only use their organizations as a conduit to make money out of the poor girls!

Should I also mention schemes by dorner organizations that fake reports to earn donations -that purpose to save these girls but end up misusing the funds? I will leave that to Graham Hancock- Author Lords of Poverty.

Sounds like a scheme right? But the reality for far too many girls and women in Kenya and around the world . Women and girls continue to pay the price of FGM and the price remains way too high!

But then who therefore pays the ultimate price of FGM. I guess you now have th

 

Also published at Girls Globe

 

 

.

 

 

 

 

 

North-South Cooperation in Fighting FGM with new Strategies

Nice Nailentei Leng’ete (Left)- Amref Ambassador with Laura Boldrini (Right) handshaking during a private meeting in Italy. (Photo Courtesy: Nice Leng’ete)

In recent years, it has become evident that international cooperation is important in promoting inclusive and sustainable development, especially in view of achieving internationally agreed upon development agendas. African countries recognize the importance of these partnerships for enhancing and consolidating the growth of the continent.

As such, many African states have benefitted from the traditional North-South cooperation, through the sharing of experiences, technical assistance as well as cooperation on the part of other developing and emerging countries. It is along such lines that the Anti FGM campaign has been able to pick up the much necessary momentum after years of lip service.

Whereas the campaign against FGM has had a long history, it has for a long time been confined to board rooms and workshops with little by way of targeted grassroots campaigns. For instance as recent as 2010 Kenya did not have an official policy addressing FGM and relied upon Presidential decrees. However with the Anti-FGM policy put in place, 2011, there has been considerable investment of resources and strategies from the North.

How did this happen? A number of factors have been combined to bring about the necessary north-south cooperation. For instance in the south, Kenya like many African countries had for years grossly underfunded many women centered development priorities. The promulgation of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010, changed the scene. This supreme law called for an end to harmful cultural practices and was quickly followed by the enactment of the Anti FGM act. The legislation provided for an institution- The Anti-FGM Board- with the mandate to undertake public education on the dangers and legal consequences of carrying out the practice, but which unfortunately remained underfunded to meet the demand of its mandate.

In the north, the international immigration crisis brought FGM to the doorstep of the developed north. Waves of migrants from nations that practice FGM began arriving and settling and with it brought their deep-rooted cultural practices such as FGM. Whereas the developed north had hitherto been known to only condemn the practice, the changing dynamics required a more proactive approach both home and abroad.

It is in this context that a new impetus to fund anti-FGM work at the grassroots by organizations based in the north came about.  Notably the Guardian Media UK launched an EndFGM Academy, 2015, in some of the FGM affected Africa countries (Kenya, The Gambia and Nigeria). The Guardian pioneered in identifying and training of young activists on the use of both new and traditional media to end FGM.

The use of media has been a powerful tool in influencing perceptions and educating people about the realities of FGM. The media has also broadened the engagement platform, reach and visibility of anti FGM efforts. The use of activists has on the other hand built upon young people who are playing a leadership role in the community and have what it takes to be future opinion leaders and shapers in their respective communities.
Similarly ,The Girl Generation, an Africa led global movement aimed at ending FGM within a generation, focuses on building a critical mass for change which helps unlock regional, national and international commitments to increase resources that can sustain and scale up efforts to end the practice. Among its approaches is the use of ambassadors, youth networks and social change communication-(transforming social norms underpinning the practice of FGM) which is in effect causing a good trickle-down effect of reaching practicing communities.

The use of networks has created much needed synergy and momentum required in the campaign to end FGM while the use of ambassadors has built upon individuals who have scaled up FGM campaign to national and global attention.

Among other notable strategies include Alternative rites of Passage (ARPs) spearheaded by AMREF Health, in Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia. ARPs allows a girl to safely transition to womanhood without undergoing the emotional and physical risk of FGM whilst preserving a communities’ culture. ARPs has been adopted by the United Nations as a model of eradicating FGM.

Another approach which has registered significant efforts and currently being undertaken in Djibouti, Mali, Guinea, Senegal, Somalia, The Gambia, and Mauritania is Tostan. Tostan is a human rights Community Empowerment Program that allows community members to draw their own conclusions about FGM and lead their own movements for change. The program also focuses on community public declarations which are critical in the process for abandonment and necessary for building critical mass, eventually leading FGM to becoming a thing of the past.

Elsewhere, 28TooMany is consistently working on research around Africa where FGM is practiced (28countries) and across the diaspora. They also advocate for the global eradication of FGM and work closely with other organizations in the violence against women sector. Research and data is a crucial element that tactically guides Anti-FGM strategies and campaign.

UNICEF/UNFPA joint program accelerates abandonment in Africa and Arab countries where it works by using a human rights- based and culturally sensitive approach. The program also supports health and protective services for those adversely affected. Initiated in 2007, the joint program aims at strengthening National Policies/legislations, training health practitioners on FGM response and care, public declarations of abandonment by communities and declarations by both religious and traditional leaders disowning any religious requirement of FGM.

Together with Member States, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted resolution 67/146: Intensifying Global Efforts for the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilations. Co- sponsored by 150 countries, the resolution underscored the fact that the practice of FGM/C is a violation of the human rights of women and girls and called for stronger global efforts to end it.

FGM sometimes threatens the lives of girls and women, thereby violating their human rights to life, liberty, and security of the person. Additionally, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa explicitly recognize that practices harmful to women such as FGM are violations of human rights.

The Africa Union 4th Conference of Ministers of Social development launched a campaign to End Child Marriage in its member states. The campaign has already been launched in 12 out of the 15 member countries. It is important to note that in most communities, the practice of FGM more often than not precedes early/forced marriage.

What these efforts have in common is the support in terms of resources and financing that is coming from the north with campaigns being led by local activists many of whom are beginning to gain the attention for their efforts in eradicating FGM in their countries

The North- South cooperation has resulted in accelerated efforts to end FGM evident in the recent ban of FGM in countries like Nigeria and The Gambia.  A drop in FGM overall statistics in some countries, Public Community declarations are some of the tangible results that can be recorded. Non tangible results can be quantified in the increased reportage of FGM cases, a surge in involvement of young people and institutions in Anti-FGM Campaigns, increased awareness, launch of regional campaigns such as the Saleema Campaign in Sudan, Not in My Name campaign in Sierra Leone and the global He for She campaign.

One of the biggest setback in eliminating FGM is medicalization of the practice. Currently more than 18% of all FGM is performed by healthcare providers and the disturbing trend is only increasing.  Medicalization of FGM wrongfully legitimates the procedures and can contribute to the damaging perception that FGM is right. FGM practice no matter who carries them on still represent a major human rights violations. In effect, some governments have passed bills that include revoking of licenses by doctors and nurses that perform FGM, Kenya being a good example.

Prevalence of FGM

It is estimated that about 100-140 million women worldwide have undergone FGM, with an additional three million girls and women undergoing the procedure every year.  FGM is prevalent in about 28 African countries and among a few minority groups in Asia. Prevalence varies significantly from one country to another.  For example, the prevalence rate is 92% in Mali, compared to 28% in Senegal.  In addition, there are many immigrant women in Europe, Canada, and the United States who have undergone FGM.  It is estimated that 15% of all circumcised women have undergone the most severe form of FGM: infibulation, which involves the stitching and narrowing of the vaginal opening-approximately 80% to 90% of all circumcisions in Djibouti, Somalia and Sudan are of this type.

Twelve industrialized countries that receive immigrants from countries where FGM is practiced include; Australia, Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, and United States have passed laws criminalizing the practice.  In Australia, six out of eight states have passed laws against FGM.  In the United States, the federal government and 17 states have criminalized the practice.

One country France has relied on existing criminal legislation to prosecute both practitioners of FGM and parents procuring the service

TOGETHER TO END FGM

Inside Samburu;The plight of girl-child

Smburu 2
Samburu Girls

Being born in Samburu County as a girl-child is an outright guarantee that living one’s dream to achieve one’s life goals is almost zero.

The Samburu culture infringes on a girls’ right to education and better health since most girls undergo Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) early in life and eventually married off to old men in exchange for a herd of cows.

Infact after birth, the girls are quickly beaded(booked) which allows families with young boys to start paying dowry early in life.
……………………….
1….Beading is the practice where a Moran presents beautiful red beads to a girl within his clan with whom he has sexual pleasure at will.
He will never marry this girl because she is from the same clan. Once a girl is beaded, a Manyatta is built separately for her to make it easy for the Moran to gain access to her.
2…In the event of conception, the girl may be forced to abort or the new born killed at birth or given away.
3…Some girls lose their lives, especially during the crude abortions where the abdomen of the pregnant girl is pressed until the foetus dies. There is also spread of HIV since the girls do not use protection or contraceptives.

Shockingly, girls as young as seven years old are often married off to men way older to be their fathers or grandfathers! Even more astonishingly, the girls are circumcised on the morning of their wedding. They bleed into their new homes.

Some men will wait for the girl to heal the wounds FGM inflicts on them, but others do not.

These girls’ education comes to a halt. They are expected to bear children, build houses, rear and manage domestic livestock in addition to providing food for the family.

Female genital mutilation comes with stigma as the girls can get fistula, have difficult childbirth, infections, and anemia leading to death and experience reduced sexual pleasure.

However, despite the mess that FGM has created previously, the youth are against the practice. Most are developing the conviction that the way to stop the vice is to marry within their age set.

The women are also standing up against their husbands marrying very young girls as second or third wives.
The new Kenyan Constitution 2010 clearly outlaws FGM but the staunch traditionalist from this community view it as an imposition from the west. FGM prevalence in this county stands at 86%, second highest in Kenya after the Northern Kenya Somalis, 93%.

Pastrolists Child Foundation Co founded by Samuel Leadismo is one of the few non-governmental organizations that has engaged the community through community discussions and dialogue sessions on the effects of beading and Early marriages.

Additionally, the organization is working with both men and women to pass information to the public on the dangers of FGM and importance of girl child education.

There are also aspects of training women and girls incorporated to help identify and exploit existing Income generating opportunities. The initiative is also keen on improving health by identifying women with fistula and referral for treatment.

Such efforts by community anchored organizations are a harbinger for a better future for girls and women in Samburu.

Samburu Girls Foundation initiated by Josephine Kulea is also helping in creating awareness on the effects of FGM,Rescuing Samburu girls and sending them to school.
The Communiy live just north of the equator in the Rift Valley province of Northern Kenya. The Samburu are closely related to the Maasai. They speak a similar language, derived from Maa.

They are semi-nomadic pastoralists. Cattle, as well as sheep, goats and camels, are of utmost importance to the Samburu culture and way of life. The Samburu are extremely dependent on their animals for survival.

Their diet consists mostly of milk and sometimes blood from their cows. The blood is collected by making a tiny nick in the jugular of the cow, and draining the blood into a cup. The wound is then quickly sealed with hot ash. Meat is only consumed on special occasions.

The Samburu diet is also supplemented with roots, vegetables and tubers dug up and made into a soup.

 

Fighting vs Managing FGM

FGM/C is a very sensitive and often A taboo issue enshrined within complex political, social, cultural and religious perceptions that go to the gender identity and gender relations.

Any efforts to end FGM/C can result in damaging consequences,driving the practice underground,undermining existing efforts to end the practice,putting individuals at risk,stigmatising those that have undergone FGM/C and adding broader political or cultural tensions.

The approach on how to eradicate FGM/C should therefore be very tactical across the practicing communities. The process of change is riddled with resistance and protest and this is unavoidable when social change begins to take place. It is hard to convince people to stop a culture that they hold on so dearly. It is their way of life. And they are somehow blind to the damaging effects.

The discourse surrounding FGM/C needs to change from engagement based on fear, power and ignorance to one of hope, empowerment and knowledge.

Anti-FGM campaigners need to understand the reasons why a community practices FGM, then plan out a practical acceptable solution.

Common reasons why FGM/C is practiced include: to increase marriageability, as a rite of passage to prepare a girl for marriage and adulthood, to ensure premarital virginity and morality ,to curb sexual desires and reduce woman libido, for femininity and modesty and as a cultural tradition. But these reasons vary across communities.

The Government of Kenya passed a bill prohibiting the practice of FGM. The Act outlaws the carrying out of FGM/C on both girls and women; safeguards them against any form of violation; outlaws any person from performing FGM/C; prohibits the use of premises to perform FGM/C and the possession of tools or equipment for FGM/C; Further, failure to report the commission of FGM/C; or committing FGM/C on a Kenyan in another country; or using derogatory language on any person who has declared ‘No’ to FGM/C are considered crimes.

According to the Act, ignorance will not be accepted as a line of defense by a perpetrator; neither will the claim that FGM/C is part of a cultural, religious, or other custom or practice. The Prohibition of FGM Act 2011 is, therefore, a vital legal framework in the fight against this harmful practice.

This was seen as a move to manage the practice.  In the real sense, the practicing communities feel they are being ‘coerced’ to stopping the practice. It has therefore been hard to prosecute the perpetrators.

Former Somaliland ‘s First Lady Edna Adan, says that while laws are a right direction to curbing FGM/C, they must be matched with practical solutions as enforcement is a big challenge. She adds that legislation only works when the majority of the people respect them. But when the majorities are committing violations, the few that support the law lack the muscles to enforce the same laws because they cannot put 99% of the community in jail!

Anti – FGM/C laws in Africa countries are gathering dust because enforcement may mean incriminating every grandmother who perpetrates the practice.

I came across a brilliant approach employed by The Girl Generation in managing FGM/C -Social change communication: communication which speaks to the motivations behind the practice and identifies the very real personal and social barriers that hinder abandonment of FGM. Communication which provides alternative, opens up debate and discussion in the public sphere, prompts individuals to question their acceptance of the practice and increasingly builds confidence to speak against it.

For FGM to end there needs to be a positive transformation in the way that girls are valued, and in the beliefs and social norms that underpin FGM.

Alternative Rites of Passage (ARPs) is also a practical option towards managing FGM. This approach offers the communities that practice FGM/C an alternative rite of passage where girls are “secluded” for one week for empowerment workshops with their mothers and other female role models. At the end of the week, family and community members gather to celebrate the girls’ passage into adulthood.

The girls perform uplifting songs and dances, and local leaders, especially women, give speeches. And, instead of genital cutting, a cake is cut to celebrate the girls entering womanhood! Women’s Global Education Project (WGEP) call it “Circumcision with words”

The workshop is aimed at creating awareness on the effects of FGM/C and promote the value of educating girls who are however married off immediately after FGM/C especially among the Maasai Community.

Incorporating FGM/C in the school curriculum is a great move towards managing FGM/C. When children are taught about FGM/C and learn about the effects, they will not unquestionably accept FGM/C as an inviolable tradition, they will therefore think for themselves and make decisions for themselves and their future families.

Revoking licenses from doctors that perform and abet the practice of FGM/C is a great move towards managing the Medicalization aspect of FGM/C.

My question is: what happens to the thousands that have already undergone FGM/C and are suffering the effects in silence. Are there mechanisms in place by the Ministry of Health to help Manage the affected women and girls?

 

 

 

 

 

Wife Battering ‘Normal’ Among the Luhya Community

For years cases of domestic /spousal violence have remained high among the Luhya. Hardly a day passes without a case of a woman being beaten from one homestead to the other. It is a norm such that incidents are often ignored; ‘ni va khasotso’ meaning the usual fighters.
Hailing from this community, I can attribute this to the existing socio-cultural myths; that a woman must occasionally be scolded to instill some discipline in her, to make her submissive and as a gesture of love. The women from this community have been cultured to believe that being battered is a prerequisite to a successful steady marriage. As a matter of fact, the women while toiling on the farm, fetching water from the river or while collecting firewood would tease each other that if they are not beaten by their husbands then they are not loved. They even ‘brag’ about the degree of injuries inflicted on them!
The women often ‘run’ back to their parents after being battered but amazingly they are persuaded to go back and take care of their children and husband shortly after nursing the injuries. They are given chicken, sweet potatoes, bananas, flour accompanied by great advice; “stay strong, marriage is tough, you don’t have to be running back to us every time your husband slaps you. Grow up! It is normal; we too endured all that.” Well, this is normally advice from a mother or grandmother.
The woman goes back and prepares an orgasmic meal (chicken and ugali) for the husband and takes over from where she had left. The husband threatens to marry another mature woman if she continues to sulk and run off all the time. But makes sweet love to her and with no time her belly swells up again.
Luhya men are very chauvinistic. They command nothing but respect from their women. A wife is just like one of his children. They are the sole decision makers. They do not easily take advice from their women, learned or not! On the flip side, they are very hard working. They work from dawn to dusk to fend for their families. They are care takers, nothing or no one can harm their family. And don’t get me wrong, they are very loving, especially the Bukusu. (The Wafulas) rarely scold their wives, they have a superficial way of showing love to their wives; topic for another day.
Luhya women are equally hardworking but can also be ‘thick headed’ especially the ones from Bunyore land. A Nyore woman cannot be easily taken down in a flight, in fact they are feared and any man marrying them knows what challenge he has brought upon himself. On the contrary, they are known to be the ones ‘disciplining’ their husbands.
My mother always threatened me that my husband will break my ribs for being slow. And that my husband will always send me back home for being lazy. I kept wondering if that was the kind of future awaiting me. I knew that there must be away out. I now tell her, NO! It doesn’t have to be that way!
Many cases of domestic violence (severe cases) are reported to the area chiefs who solve them (amicably) together with community elders. Reconciliation is always the way forward. Luhyas believe that Police station, cells and prison is for murderers and thieves, not petty chicken/maize thieves, serious robbers.
Anti-GBV campaigners need to understand these socio-cultural barriers entangled within this community while preparing their campaign programmes.

Repositioning FGM as a Gender and Development Issue,60thCSW

Voila! There we go again! A significant step towards eliminating FGM in the entire world! For the first time, in 2016 FGM has been included in the global goals under Sustainable Development goal 5. Target 5.3 Eliminate all harmful practices such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation. More than 200 million girls and women throughout the world have undergone FGM in Africa, Middle East, Asia, Latin America, Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand, (UNICEF 2013)

Eliminating FGM is a crucial step in achieving many of the other Sustainable Development Goals including targets on health and well-being, education, gender equality, decent work and economic growth. As the practice of FGM continues, the health/well-being of girls and women is threatened and they are denied opportunities for decent work and quality education. For the millions of girls currently at risk of FGM this new global goal brings the promise of a better future.

The just concluded 60th (Commission on the Status of Women) CSW60/NY conference held in New York with the theme: “Women’s empowerment and its link to sustainable development” served as a great opportunity for galvanizing political will and engaging a discussion on successful strategies in eliminating the harmful practice of FGM. The event provided a great platform to expand awareness of the key linkages between eliminating FGM, women’s empowerment and the entire SDG agenda. It also increased visibility of member states committed to ending FGM.

The current dominant discourse on ending FGM focusing on the social norm approach does not fully recognize the gender dimension and the development context of this human rights violation. CSW60 sought to shift the dynamic to a developmental approach.
According to social norm perspective, for FGM to be abandoned in a community as whole, social expectations have to change within families, but also across families. This can only happen if a significant number of families within a community make a collective and coordinated choice to abandon the practice, so that no single girl or family is disadvantaged by the decision. For this to succeed, it is essential that members of the community are aware of and trust the intentions of their peers. The importance of peer groups should not be underestimated, as evidence shows that only when information comes from someone similar to oneself is one willing to accept it

While social norm approach provides a better understanding of the social mechanisms that lead to FGM, there is also a need to better understand the economic aspect of FGM.
Women and families in affected communities have higher priorities than the abandonment of FGM such as access to health, education, sanitation, agricultural improvement and food processing, among others. It is crucial to incorporate the abandonment of FGM as a key element in achieving development objectives in these areas. Evidence suggests that when addressed within broader development programmes, FGM prevention interventions are more effective and well received by affected communities, because such programmes assist in overcoming other pressing issues and challenges that affect the daily lives and access to basic needs.

Rather than developing programs focusing exclusively on the prevention of FGM, the most effective interventions both financially and in terms of decreasing prevalence rates seem to be those that address the abandonment of the practice within broader development policies, programmes and projects. Such programmes and projects may focus on sexual and reproductive health and rights (including HIV/AIDS prevention and provision of SRHR services) as well as safe motherhood, child mortality and health and women’s empowerment including access to education and economic opportunities. Others may integrate FGM into more comprehensive programmes on rural and industrial development and poverty reduction.

FGM is a global human rights violation that cuts across Africa, The Middle East, Asia, North America and Europe. The global dimension of FGM requires the development of transnational and transcontinental interventions, focused on building bridges between communities living both in Europe and in affected continents, particularly Africa. Programmes should favor a bottom up approach promoting direct involvement of the whole community and involving all relevant stakeholders, including men young people community leaders, policy makers and the media.

The Commission on Status of Women (CSW) is a global yearly Forum where women activists gather to speak and learn from each other to advocate. The agreed conclusions from the session will contribute to the UNs 2030 sustainable development goals (SDGs) that were adopted by the General Assembly in 2015.

Anti FGM Crusaders Concerted effort to end the Vice.

A six per cent drop in Female Genital Mutilation cases to 21per cent over the past five years indicates that the anti-FGM fight is yielding fruit.

Anti FGM Board Chairperson Dr Jebii Kilimo noted the positive change but added the battle is still moving at a snail’s pace.

In an interview, Dr Kilimo reveals that as much as there is a law in place prohibiting the practice, FGM proponents have devised new methods to circumvent the law where medical practitioners are now conducting FGM at secret at locations thereby helping families evade detection when the procedure goes awry.

According to the Kenya Demographic Health Survey (KDHS), one third of all women who had undergone FGM/C reported being cut by medical practitioners.

Ms Kilimo noted criminalisation of the practice on medical grounds  has also led to women willing to seek proper medical care to avoid complications.

“Although professional FGM practice decreases the negative health effects of the procedure, this has led to misconception that hospitals/clinic FGM is a benign and acceptable form of practice,” says Kilimo.

According to UNICEF and other NGOs, medicalization obscures the human right issues surrounding FGM/C and prevents the development of effective and long term solution for ending it.

Due to the legislation that prohibits FGM/C many communities are leaving the ceremonial aspects of the practice.
image

Ex- cutters from Loitoktok, Samburu and Kajiado. Now strong Anti-FGM ambassadors

Most communities conduct the practice on specific months in the year through festive ceremonies but that is phasing away as they end up being arrested. They now do it in secrecy by accompanying the practice with a common ceremony such as a birthday.

There are also reported trend of girls being cut at earlier ages. Girls are most frequently cut from 7-12yrs old as compared to 12-15 years before.

Anti FGM crusaders view the decrease in age as a way of avoiding detection in response to legislation banning the practice.

They also feels another factor why it  is performed on young girls is that they are independent and less aware of the health implications of practice.

With increased education and Anti-FGM initiatives girls are less inclined to undergo the procedure. These communities are aware that community based organizations and faith based organizations talk to school going girls and educate them on effects of FGM, so they cut the girls earlier enough before they are enlightened.

Reports indicate that there is also a change in the type of FGM conducted across communities. The amount of tissue cut is reducing.

A recent study among the Somali for example, shows that all participating women and girls had been cut and most were infibulated, though a gradual decline in the severity of the cut among younger girls from infibulation to a less severe form was reported.

image

Shilini Shirim AIC Samaria Mission Academy, graduant ARP and Anti FGM ambassador

Among the Nandi, clitoridectomy is the most common among the young women whereas excision is more prevalent in the older age groups. They attribute the change in cutting to reducing cases of maternal mortality.

The eradication of FGM is pertinent to achieving of four millennium development goals (MDGs). MDG3 Promote gender equality and empower women. MDG4 Reduce Child Mortality. MDG5 Reduce maternal mortality and MDG6 combat HIV/AIDs malaria and other diseases.

Former First lady Somaliland Edna Adan underscores legislation around FGM. She says that legislation only work when the majority of the people respect it. But when the majority are committing the violations, the few that support the laws lack the muscle to enforce the same law.

Dr. Kilimo advocates for both formal and informal education, sexual and reproductive health education, increased law enforcement and equipping of law enforcement agencies, research and funding on the psychological consequences of FGM.

Emerging trends that impede the fight to end FGM in Kenya

The Kenya Demographic Health Survey (KDHS 2014) indicates a slight drop in FGM cases (from 27%to 21%) over the past 5yrs. An indication that the fight to end FGM is yielding. But again, why is the battle so slow?

My recent Meeting with Dr. Jebii Kilimo,  Chairperson Anti-FGM board, Kenya, reveals that as much as there is a law in place prohibiting the practice still there are other emerging trends that the practicing communities are adapting to.

Medicalization of the ‘cut’ has resulted in more girls reporting  being cut by medical practitioners at the comfort of their homes rather than by traditional practitioners. According to KDHS 2014, one third of all women who had undergone FGM/C reported being cut by medical practitioners. Criminalization of the practice on medical grounds  has also led to women willing to seek proper medical care to avoid complications.

Although medicalization decreases the negative health effects of the procedure, this has led to misconception that hospitals/clinic FGM is a benign and acceptable form of practice.

According to UNICEF and other NGOs, medicalization obscures the human right issues surrounding FGM/C and prevents the development of effective and long term solution for ending it.
image

Some of the tools used by traditional cutters

Due to the legislation that prohibits FGM/C many communities are leaving the ceremonial aspects of the practice. Most communities conduct the practice on specific months in the year through festive ceremonies but that is phasing away as they end up being arrested. They now do it in secrecy by accompanying the practice with a common ceremony such as a birthday.

There is also a trend towards girls being cut at earlier ages. Girls are most frequently cut from 7-12yrs old as compared to 12-15 years before. It is thought that the decrease in age is to avoid detection in response to legislation banning the practice. Another factor for why FGM is performed on young girls is that they are independent and less aware of the health implications of FGM. With increased education and Anti-FGM initiatives girls are less inclined to undergo the procedure. These communities are aware that community based organizations and faith based organizations talk to school going girls and educate them on effects of FGM, so they cut the girls earlier enough before they are enlightened.

Reports indicate that there is also a change in the type of FGM conducted across communities. The amount of tissue cut is reducing.A recent study among the Somali for example, shows that all participating women and girls had been cut and most were infibulated, though a gradual decline in the severity of the cut among younger girls from infibulation to a less severe form was reported. Among the Nandi, clitoridectomy is the most common among the young women whereas excision is more prevalent in the older age groups. They attribute the change in cutting to reducing cases of maternal mortality.

The eradication of FGM is pertinent to achieving of four millennium development goals (MDGs). MDG3 Promote gender equality and empower women. MDG4 Reduce Child Mortality. MDG5 Reduce maternal mortality and MDG6 combat HIV/AIDs malaria and other diseases.

Former First lady Somaliland Edna Adan underscores legislation around FGM. She says that legislation only work when the majority of the people respect it. But when the majority are committing the violations, the few that support the laws lack the muscle to enforce the same law.

Dr. Jebii Kilimo advocates for both formal and informal education, sexual and reproductive health education, increased law enforcement and equipping of law enforcement agencies, research and funding on the psychological consequences of FGM.

It’s time to give Boy child an audience

For years, a lot of emphasis has been angled at girl child as that of boy child  relegated. Pro- girl campaigns by women groups, churches, Non-governmental organizations and many other organizations have been run to promote girl child needs.

In African communities, the birth of a male child was welcome with jubilation and honor. It basically signified wealth and prosperity. The notion is slowly phasing away with focus shifting to the female gender. GIRL CHILD

The kind of attention and response given to boys who have been abused is totally different from that of girls. Sodomized boys would rather not talk about it since the harsh society doesn’t view maleS  AS susceptible.

Both in the rural and urban areas, boys OF school going age abscond lessons to undertake cultural/economic activities. In the rift valley region young boys have turned into herders. They are also taught how to use guns to protect the livestock.

In my region, Western KENYA its alarming how young boys miss school to work on farms for MEAGER wages to fend for their families. In the Coastal and Nairobi regions, most young boys engage in criminal activities including selling and USING drugs. The parents seem totally oblivious of how it affects their future.

The Child Welfare Association (CWA) has established that 1 in every 15 Kenyan students is abusing drugs or alcohol especially at the coast and Nairobi regions.

The Kenya National Association of Probation Officers (KNAPO) found that boys as young as eight abused drugs. KNAPO further states that more than 400,000 students in Kenya secondary schools are drug addicts out of whom 15,000 are girls.

In police records, it is noted that 63% of the youth who commit suicide in our society are from fatherless homes. 90%of the homeless and run away children are from fatherless homes as are 85%of children who exhibit behavioral disorders and juvenile discordant and criminals in prisons.

The number of males in prison in Kenya is seven times higher than that of females a clear indication that the upbringing had problems including the absence of role models.

Formation of organizations such as  Boychild agenda international to refocus attention to boy child is an a plausible milestone in salvaging the plight of boy child.

Boychild agenda international is a non governmental organization spearheading the improvement of the life for the boy child in Kenya whose agenda has been neglected by the society especially after focus being directed to the girl child.

Boychild international seeks to work towards achieving a fairly competitive world for the boy child and at the same time engaging the youth in activities that would make them counter productive. The main focus include rescuing the young generation from negative effects of drugs, the HIV/AIDS.

There is need for collective effort from Non governmental organizations, the government, parents, teachers, religious leaders to mentor boys into responsible individuals in the future. Both girl child and boy child should receive equal attention.

Yes, the youth can indeed end FGM!

Children and young people up to the age of 24 account for up to 70 percent of the population of most developing countries. They represent enormous potential for social and political change indicators for four of the eight Millennium Development Goals. (MDG 2,3,4 and 6) specifically mention girls and boys at the target group for other MDG’s particularly in the field of sex and reproductive health.

We are the Change agents,  the Revolutionists. A new beginning starts with us. A new world is definitely moulded by us. We are the voice and the the driving force behind the developments to eliminate harmful customs and traditional practices.

We are the Pacesetters,  the determiners, the future of the next generation is destined in us. We are the shapers of this world, we can shape it the best way possible since we have the power to advocate for change.

We are the innovators, most creative ideas generate within us. We have the right technology that we can incorporate in our campaign to end FGM.

We have the energy to work, energy to lead, ability to influence decision making, ability to influence policy formation and law enforcement.

We have unique talents: ability to sing, write and dance. We can use our various talents to drive Anti-FGM messages home. We have the energy, our concerted effort can wipe out the practice.

We are the future leaders, doctors, midwives, social workers, teachers. We are therefore supposed to take up the leadership roles now. We are practically the leaders of our countries. Let us use this power to direct and influence change.

It is necessary that we learn now why FGM and early child/forced marriages is wrong so that we can grow in a society that condemns these practices. Do we in the first place really know about the practice? How can we influence change without the knowledge? Let’s start by empowering young people with the right information through education. Education is key in eradicating this practices, we need to pioneer for interactive resources that can be used in a classroom setting, both formal and informal education, Mali, Kenya and Burkina Faso have done it. This way children do not accept FGM unquestionably as an inviolable tradition. Through education, young people learn to think for themselves and make decisions for themselves and future families.

We need to realize that we can not work as stand-alone entities. Let’s come together, tap into available resources, converge all our unique talents and abilities, form  national movements, speak with one voice and move with synergy towards eradicating FGM and other social malpractices. Let’s create a national dialogue, engage the key players and create relationship with all the activists campaigning against FGM.

Let us not focus on teaching young people solely from FGM affected background, it is necessary to educate all young people. FGM is a human right abuse and therefore “Everybody’s business”
image

It is my business..