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!

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.
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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’.

francis
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.

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.
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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.

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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”
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It is my business..