The Ultimate Price of FGM

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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

 

 

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The conversation around the practice of FGM has to change!

26 year old woman from Musenke, Magadi ( Photo from my media Library)

Why am I saying this?

Seventy odd days have passed since the year 2017 began and reflecting on the past years campaigns against FGM and early marriages, it is true that all who are involved have walked a long distance. There have been moments where the campaign may have faltered and made missteps but also some significant progress has been registered. In the course of writing and campaigning as well as visiting various communities across the country where FGM is practiced, I can attest that activists are increasingly encountering subtle resistance.
A revisionist movement is slowly but surely pushing the envelope, challenging some of the long held reasons advanced in campaigns against FGM as well as approaches that seem not to fit with their local context. As such the conversation at the national level is not yielding much needed results at the community level.

How is this possible, given the resources that are being channeled and renewed vigor among activists? Just to illustrate this, sometime in 2016 during an event dubbed the Maasai 7s event in Kajiado, a group of elite young men from universities; The Maasai Students Association, revealed to me that they still encourage and uphold the practice of FGM citing that their work involves moving around schools encouraging girls to continue with school after the practice. Many activists would contend that this is a big fat lie because the fact on the ground is that FGM among the Maasai prepares a woman mentally for marriage and there is very little chance that the girl will pursue education after the cut!

Another illustration relates to a separate visit, to Garissa where the FGM prevalence stands at 97%. Here the recurring challenge arising relates to the notion that somehow FGM affects child births. During community conversations, I have heard many women dispute the health effects of the practice citing that they have actually been able to give birth to many children despite the cut! One woman from Garissa told me that she underwent type 3 form of FGM (infubilation) and she prides in the birth of her 10 children. According to Kenneth Odary of Research Triangle Africa (RTA), such uninformed sentiments coupled with official statistics that reveal that there is indeed a higher birth rate and population growth diminish the credibility of some long held facts on the dangers of FGM.

Another recent illustration coming barely a week is, while in Narok during a youth forum where a young man from the group stood up and insisted that his two daughters will go through FGM and that until someone gives him better reasons why he should not, he was not going to defy his culture to impress anyone. Baffling as he sounded, he represents a majority out here!

These are but few examples of the subtle resistance and revisionist statements that activists have to contend with while in the field. Such is the dilemma, which in many private conversations has been suggestions for a holistic approach which not only tackles the known health and social-cultural issues but also frames them within the broader social economic and political context.

For instance, recently there was a voter registration exercise that took place in Kenya and various political factions were competing to register voters. Unknown to some of these groups is that only a third of women who currently comprise over half the population of Kenya are registered to vote! This is largely as a result of many women lacking the crucial national identity card as result of being forced into early marriages common with girls who have undergone FGM but also dropped out of school.

According to Kenneth Odary, this implies that in Kenya’s tribal driven politics, communities practicing FGM are deprived of the critical numbers needed to bargain for power and resources at the National level. Besides, given their low level of education attainment, such women may be unable to countenance the importance of voting as their democratic right enshrined in our constitution even upon attaining the age of maturity. As such the political class ought to be targeted as part of anti-FGM campaigns and sold a different narrative which serves both their personal ambitions and community interests!

Politics aside, women’s pursuit of their socio-economic rights is largely hampered as a result of harmful cultural practices of FGM and early marriages. For instance, In Kenya, without a national identity card, a woman can be deprived of the opportunity to access affirmative action funds made available by government such as the youth fund, women’s fund and Uwezo fund.

This against a backdrop where research has continuously shown that women in Kenya have demonstrated greater fiducial responsibility with regards to micro-finance loans. In the same token, in a world where digital presence has become the norm, a woman without her national ID cannot register for a simple mobile phone sim card! Which in the current setting is more than just a communication tool.

In this regard, activists ought to generate data that appeals to micro-finance institutions, banks and mobile money companies and therefore walk hand in hand in anti FGM campaigns.

In addition, access to health while it remains a right is also compromised if one cannot access the National Health Insurance Fund as a result of lacking a national identity card. Besides, without an ID, women are less likely to own property especially during succession matters. Lack of an ID also inhibits their ability to engage in business not forgetting movement within and out of Kenya! As such many women as a result of underage marriages occasioned by FGM remain marginalized and trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty or what Eva Komba, a Gender and Development Specialist, describes as feminization of poverty. Thereby a woman who is poor is unlikely to better the life of her own children. Thus activists must purpose to fate their strategies and approaches along gender and sustainable development processes locally, nationally and globally.

These examples here are but a fraction of the numerous doses of reality that relate to the women at the community level that can be generated to re-energize the anti FGM crusade and make it more holistic. Thus funding for activities need to strategically shift from arguments about why FGM is wrong published in little fact sheets distributed during conferences to the broader socio economic and political impact of this practice.

Linkages should be made between the anti-FGM campaigns and development strategies such as Kenya’s vision 2030, Planet 50/50, Agenda 2063 and the sustainable development goals (SDG). According to Kenneth Odary, linking FGM to national, regional and global priorities that men care about may be what is needed to overcome some of the harmful cultural practices.

While on his tour in Kenya, UN General Secretary, Antonio Guterres, reminded the world, during International Women’s Day and simultaneous launch of the AU campaign to end child/forced marriage that no country will achieve its full development agenda without full integration of women and girls!

‘Age sets of Morans against FGM.’

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Leshan Kampaine (Assistant chief) left, Joseph Toret (Chief) centre, Ntipapa Amsa (Assistant Chief) right ( Rombo Manyattas)

Morans in Rombo, Lugulului, Kuku and Mbirikani manyattas Loitoktok are the first age sets of Morans to turn their backs on (Female Genital Mutilation) FGM. Under the age set system, groups of the same age are initiated into adult life during the same period. The age-set thus formed is a permanent grouping, and lasts throughout the life of its members. Each set consists of about 10,000 Morans. They move up through a hierarchy of grades, each lasting approximately 15 years, including those of junior warriors, senior warriors, junior elders (sometimes classed as senior warriors), and senior elders, who are the ones who make decisions affecting the whole tribe.

This current set of Morans sworn in in 2011, has ten more years to rule. Meaning during their tenure there will be few to almost no cases of Female Genital Mutation (FGM) and early marriage.This declaration gives girls an opportunity to go to school and live up to their dreams.

One of the main reasons why FGM is practiced among this community is to prepare a girl for womanhood and for marriage. Most girls ages 8-15 are circumcised and married off immediately leading to high school dropout cases.

I sought to find out why these sets of Morans are against FGM, a culture that has been very rampant among the Maasai community for decades. I visited two manyattas, Rombo and Lugulului. The Morans here admit that they have been trained by AMREF Health Africa and a few other local CBOs mainly NOYA-Network of Youths in Action on the effects of FGM on their girls and they wholesomely agreed to be the protectors of their girls and women. They too have seen that the consequences of failing to educate girls has led to underdevelopment in their region. Needless to mention, they also confessed that uncircumcised girls are better to marry since they enjoy sex with them as opposed to cut girls who are hard to arouse! They are therefore appealing to women to spare the girls.

The Morans, apart from being physical guardians of the community and  the decision makers they are also role models to younger boys and their peers.

Marriage before used to be determined by fathers but these days marrying is no longer a father’s choice, the decision has entirely been left for the boys to decide when and whom to marry.

I also interacted with a number of female Ex-cutters who have proudly dropped the knife and converted to champions/strong activists who condemn FGM and call for arrests on other females who are still secretly cutting girls.

Transitioning to womanhood is now taught during school holidays. AMREF Health Africa has been teaching girls about Alternative Rites of Passage (ARPs), during school holidays in April, August and December. ARP is a cultural day event which embraces the positive cultural training and ceremonies that initiate girls from childhood to womanhood but removes the harmful cut. The girls are also awarded certificates as a show of passage.

NOYA under its programme, Morans For Girlchild Education and Empowerment (M4GEE) has been able to bring together morans to learn about the effects of FGM and Early Marriage. Morans under this programme are holding yearly festivals dubbed ‘Moran Festival’ where performances are held to raise funds towards education of girls.

The Morans together with the local leders have been the strong voice behind the reduction of FGM in Loitoktok and the strong security that curbs cross-border FGM. Cross border FGM is when girls are taken to the neighboring country Tanzania for FGM since Tanzania has not yet outlawed the practise. The Morans are however watchful of these cases because the last case in 2013 led to a girl bleeding to death.

The East Africa Legislative Assembly (EALA) in May this year introduced a bill outlawing the harmful practice which affects young women and girls in Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi and Tanzania. It is seen as critical among the six member states to totally prohibit Female Genital Mutilation. if this bill is enacted, cross boarder FGM is going to be totally illegal.

Additionally, Morans here are involved in exchange programs with other Morans in Tanzania to help them understand the effects of FGM. They also consult each other a lot on various issues and celebrate most ceremonies together.

Alternative rites of passage among other anti-FGM campaigns have been estimated to be 80% productive in Loitoktok. More and more girls are attending schools. Morans have taken it upon themselves to ensure that girls complete primary ,secondary school and college education since they will significantly contribute to development in their own community and the country at large.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside Samburu;The plight of girl-child

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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.
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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.

 

Francis, a young male who vows to end FGM in Loitoktok

“FGM is soon going to be history in Loitoktok as it largely contributes to school dropouts and early marriages,” says former reproductive  health expert, Mr Francis Odhiambo.

Mr Odhiambo, who formerly worked with the United States Agency for International Development, (USAID) said he had developed an aggressive but friendly approach to fighting FGM as he had learnt a lot since 2010 when he was posted to the area.
In an interview , Mr Odhiambo said his passion arose after he realized many young lives were being destroyed due to the FGM practice which ensure women would never rise beyond the ‘kitchen’.

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Francis dressed like a Moran

Five years later, Mr Odhiambo vividly recalls a particular incident that pains him to date;
They had just retired for the day when they received a call that there was a dying 13year old expectant girl who had been rescued from Tanzania a few minutes after she underwent the cut.“We drove to the border area and received the girl but the bad weather made the roads impassable and the girl died from excessive bleeding before reaching hospital.No one was arrested or punished for her death,” he says.
After the disturbing incident, Odhiambo vowed to do something that will put an end to the barbaric practice that kills and denies young girls opportunities for a better future.
He quit his work and together with a few more youth from the county formed a community based organization named ‘Network of Youths in Action’ (NOYA) .
They organized for inter-school and community outreach programmes where they used comedies, skits, folk songs, theatre and dances to teach girls on the effects of FGM.
Still, he did not see any change, girls dropped out of school, girls got pregnant forcing them to get married off to old men. He realized that it was not the girls that made decisions but their male parents as women in the Maasai community have no ‘voice’. His messianic approach to save these young generation from this cruelty was met with a lot of resistance from men who viewed him as an outsider claiming  he was ‘poisoning’ the young girls.

Odhiambo slowly penetrated groups of ‘Morans’ (Morans are Maasai male teenagers/warriors) by attending their weekend evening feast of ‘Nyama choma’ (roast meat) and even sipped raw blood from bloody gourds. He chatted many nights away with the morans and was soon assimilated into their weekly feasts where he donned their red coloured ‘shuka’ and adopted to the culture.
He quickly started a program targeting the Morans called ‘Morans for Girl Child Education and Empowerment, (M4GEE). The program was aimed at training Morans on the effects of FGM and the importance of educating girls. The Morans became champions, Anti-FGM ambassadors and the security that curbs cross-border FGM. In 2013, NOYA started aggressive community outreaches using magnet theater whereby they use drama and skits to educate the community.
Early this year, to mark Zero Tolerance day to FGM in February, they held a Moran festival , a festival that brought together all the Morans and the Maa community where messages to end FGM were propagated. T he festival was also meant to raise funds that would go to education of the young girls. Francis admits that there has been a significant drop in FGM cases in this comminity.

He acknowledges Alice Masinte who is a key ambassador for NOYA projects. The only challenge was in the beginning when he received so much resistance. He has over a period earned trust from the community and has also created dialogue with the necessary policy makers in Kajiado county.

In addition, Francis is an artist. He records and sings music with messages that urge communities, country and world at large to abandon FGM. His advocacy through music is bearing fruits as he also gets opportunities to perform during Anti-FGM festivals and events.

Francis does not even come from this county but lives, works and relates quite well with a people that he can hardly speak their language. Francis was born and raised in Kisumu, a region that hardly practices FGM. He urges fellow men to be the voice of change since Kenya is a patriarchal nation.

Currently, he is a member of the Kenya Youth Anti-FGM Network- a national Anti-FGM Youth movement that has recently been formed by the youths from the different FGM practicing communities in Kenya.

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.

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.
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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.

Men, stand up for women!

In light of the ongoing 16days of activism, I would like to challenge the men of this country, What are you doing to end Violence Against Women. What role are you playing? Are you doing something to end VAW or are you contributing to the perpetration?

Violence against women is a global phenomenon that affects a large portion of the population right across from the first world countries to the third world. Women are subjected to different shades of violence that can range from verbal abuse to sexual harassment, domestic violence to war crimes etc..

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Destressed woman

Majority of men think they are on the periphery of this problem and need not to get involved. But violence against women is widespread and very real and cannot be written off as a woman issue,because it’s not. It is a social crime that occurs everywhere, in the house, on the streets, in the office and can happen to anyone; their mothers,sisters,daughters  wives.

It is the responsibility of mothers to nurture their sons into men who respect and value women. It is this simple behavioral conditioning  (I.e, allowing sons to mistreat sisters and order them around)that men are made aware of their ‘Superiority’ over women

Sons who see their father or male relative beating women usually believe it is the male right to do so.this is where the society and law enforces role come in, if there is no response to stop this abuse, the young males belief in VAW is strengthened.

Young girls as young as two months are being defiled,  old grandmothers as old as 90 years are being raped. Children in schools are being impregnated by teachers, women in offices asked for sexual favors, preachers asking for ‘sexual spiritual healing’ etc God forbid!

We need men who are caretakers and not abusers, we need men who are protectors and not wolves, we need men who are loving and not bitter scorns, we need men who take the lead and not back seats!

Where are your voices men! where are your voices? Your sisters,daughters,wives are suffering. We have suffered enough, step up for us! It is not good that the same men we are looking for help from are the same men that violet us! Whom do you want us to turn to. It is your role and responsibility to take care of us, women. What has come of you?

I am writing this from the bottom of my heart. It hurts to see all these violence happening to us every day. We can not peacefully walk on the streets without being hurled insults at, being mocked,  why are men bitter? Is their something that we women have done wrong that we may need to turn around? Tell us.

I however commend a few male Involved organizations that have stood up to fight for women rights. They include:

  1. Masculinity Institute-A non governmental organization that transforms attitudes and make domestic violence unacceptable to men,women,boys and girls.
  2. HeForShe- A solidarity movement that encourages gender equality. The movement encourages men to stand up for women as a basic human right and benefit for all.
  3. House Of Major-  A public relations firm that started a campaign dubbed #SayNoToSGBV pioneered by Mwenesi Musalia and Adam Ali who are very passionate about ending violence against women

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    Mwenesi Musalia of House of Major

I dedicate this piece to every man out there. We have the constitution ,with laws and policies that you can use to end violence against women. The ball is your court. We want to feel your voices, your involvement. Men must be the change we wish and hope to see. Please do something, just anything within your capacity to contribute to a violence free society.