Kenyan Youth Officially Launch a National Anti-FGM Youth Network

Members of the Kenya Anti-FGM Youth Network celebrating the launch #YouthPower

 On 17th August 2016, a number of young males and females from Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) practicing communities around Kenya congregated at the Young Women Christian Association (YWCA) to officially launch a National Anti-FGM Network under a trending hashtag #YouthPower!
The event was sponsored by The Girl Generation (TGG), an Africa led campaign that aims at eliminating FGM in one generation among Africa countries. Led by Global Director Dr. Faith Mwangi-Powell, TGG was happy to partner with the visionary youths in Kenya to end FGM. In her recorded video speech, Dr. Faith said that she will be a mentor to the young people and that she will continuously support their projects and activities geared towards eliminating the practice. She encouraged the network members to converge all their unique talents and abilities towards fighting FGM.

The high energy and colorful ceremony also brought together other partners and stakeholders whose core goal is to end FGM in Kenya. They included; Chairperson Anti-FGM Board, Dr.Jebii Kilimo, Office of The Director Of Public Prosecution, Ms. Christine Nanjala, Child Protection Unit, UNICEF Kenya, Mr. Bernard Kuria.

The celebration was kicked off with a lively music performance by Dennis Mugiira, YWCA Youth Representative followed by another music performance from one of the network member Solomon Mtunasi whose music piece speaks on the adverse effects caused by FGM. The song titled ‘Ukeketaji ni hatari’ Swahili phrase, meaning ‘FGM is quite harmful’ is meant to urge perpetrators of the act to abandon the practice. After the hyped performance, he paved way for the Chairperson of the Network, Mr. Omar Nasteh.

Mr. Omar Nasteh, Chaiperson Kenya Anti-FGM Youth Network giving his welcome remarks

Mr. Omar started off by welcoming and thanking all partners who were present. In his welcoming remarks, he pointed out that FGM is a global issue and that it concerns everyone. ‘Everyone is an ambassador to their community,’ Said Mr. Omar. ‘We will encounter various challenges in our journey to end FGM but that will not discourage us,’ He added. Omar who hails from a high prevalence region; Kenya’s Somali community where the practice is at 93% (highest in Kenya) was happy to be part of a movement that he believes will offer him a great platform to galvanize his community towards abandoning the practice. He for sure was happy about his position as the chairperson for the network. He promised to give his team great support and strategic direction towards realizing its vision.
Taking over was Bernard Kuria, UNICEF Kenya, in his presentation he expounded on the changing social norms surrounding FGM. He started by sharing the statistics mainly the FGM county and national statistics in relation to child marriage numbers. Currently, The Kenya Demographic Health Survey {KDHS 2014} reveals that FGM prevalence is at 21%,  a 6% drop over the past decade.

Bernard highlighted that there are various myths surrounding the practice of FGM and that all are mere social constructs that can only be changed through education. He too urged men to join in the fight.

Christine Nanjala, ODPP, assured members on the implementation of the Anti-FGM Act. She said that her office is currently keeping track of FGM cases and that they are able to release monthly reports. She insisted that everyone has a role to play to ensure that FGM perpetrators are brought to book. She also pointed out that her department is quite aware of the gaps in the existing law and that they are working with the various stakeholders to ensure that the law is fully efficient.

ODPP Christine Nanjala during her speech

The otherwise jubilant room was sent to a somber mood during Alice Masinte’s speech.  Alice, one of the network member, who is an FGM survivor narrated her journey before and after the FGM act. Her sweet sour story is an inspiration to many FGM survivors; that there is a future after the cut. She was happy that through dialogue with her father she has been able to rightfully save her sisters from the cut. She, together with a few other youths from her region (Loitoktok) started a Community Based Organization; Network of Youths in Action (NOYA); a CBO that empowers young girls in primary schools to understand the effects of FGM. NOYA also works with Morans (teenage maasai warriors) under a program called Morans for Girls Education and Empowerment (M4GEE) where Morans lead in the struggle to save girls from the cut whilst championing for their education. Alice is the key ambassador for NOYA projects, she prides in her zeal to save more and more girls from the cut.

Audience inclined to Alices’ story

After Alice’s story, the rooms’ previous ambiance was restored by a music performance by Mweledi. Mweledi who is also a network member uses his music piece to urge communities to abandon gender based violence, FGM being one of them.

The ceremony was also a perfect moment to unveil the recently appointed TGG ambassadors. Hassan Adan Mulata, Peter Macharia and Seleiyan Partoip were glad to have been picked up to represent TGGs projects in Kenya. The ambassadors come from FGM practicing communities in Kenya and run grassroots organizations meant to drive out the practice.

Hamimu Masudi, TGG Kenya Cordinator, Introducing The Ambassadors

The presence of the Chairperson Anti-FGM board was loud. Dr. Jebii Kilimo was pleased by the work of the young people in Kenya. She was proud of the founding of the network sighting that it is the first ever initiative by the youths in Kenya. She was happy that such energy coupled with her dockets’ will intensify the fight to end FGM in Kenya and Africa as a whole. She urged the network members to remain objective in their struggle to eradicate FGM.  After her remarks she finally unveiled the networks new logo.

Chairperson Anti-FGM board giving her congratulatory remarks as she unveils the new logo

The logo that captures a Pan-African spirit was ceremoniously welcomed with a music performance by Francis Odhiambo (Foreman), and Rose who are also network members. The music piece that was recently released with close to 5,000 views ‘Say No to FGM’ urges everyone that they can make a difference by saying no to the practice. The piece also highlights on the effects of FGM.

‘Foreman’ and Rose performing a music piece ‘Say No to FGM’ during the unveiling of the new logo

It was evident that the youth were full of energy and that they contain various talents as well as immense ability to use the current technology to intensify the fight to end FGM. They sang and danced to the various artistes within their own network. They also tweeted every moment of the event.

ABOUT THE KENYA ANTI-FGM NETWORK

The Kenya Anti-FGM Youth Network was founded late last year (2015) as a result of strategic advice by The Girl Generation during a youth training on Monitoring and Evaluation for Social Change Communication. The network, through its member volunteerism has grown to a national movement with focal county youth representatives. It has over a short period of time spearheaded activities meant to create awareness on FGM and partnerships with other stakeholders working to end FGM. Its recent participation in the #Maasai7s Rugby event in Kajiado, Maasailand and The #MarsabitYouthChapterLaunch, Marsabit are some of the high key activities with great outputs that they have so far initiated.

The network has a yearly work plan with various activities that it aims to execute together with its targeted partners.

It is also inclusive such that it comprises of both males and females across FGM practicing communities. It remains gender sensitive by promoting equity and equality evident in its leadership structure where key positions are occupied by an equal number of males and females.

#YouthPower

Under its vision, the network hopes to not only tackle FGM but also address other pertinent issues such as Early Marriage, HIV AIDs, sexual reproductive health, climate change, youth unemployment and access to opportunities as well as other cross cutting issues around the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The Challenges 

The youth encounter unsurmountable challenges in their struggle to bring about positive change in the society. Such challenges include: unequal representation in leadership and decision making processes of the countrys’ key agendas

Culturally the youth are considered voiceless. They are viewed as young and inexperienced hence not able to give valid opinion.

Additionally, the youth lack resources to propel their agendas. As much as the government allocates the budget for the youth, it remains hard for the youth to access the funds due to the massive corruption in the system.

Finally, the youth lack vehicles to push for their agendas. The now launched network is a birth of a new vehicle that will drive the envisioned goals of this network to its rightful destination.

 #YouthPower

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..