Alternative Rites of Passage offering girls a life-saving alternative to ‘the cut’

December 6, 2021by CREAWKENYA

Although Kenya has banned the practice of FGM, it still occurs, particularly amongst semi-nomadic tribes like the Maasai and Samburu. Like in other parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East, the ritual cutting or removal of some or all of the external female genitalia is a dangerous cultural practice rooted in ideas of modesty, hygiene and ‘purity’. However, FGM often has serious adverse health effects such as lack of voluntary control over urination or defecation, repeated infections which can lead to infertility, life-threatening problems during childbirth and girls even die as a result of the procedure due to massive loss of blood and infections.

Coupled with the FGM ban, Alternative Rite of Passage, best known as ARP training, is slowly beginning to have a positive impact. ARP is a community-driven initiative that retains the cultural celebration of a girl’s transition into womanhood without the ‘cut’, early/forced marriage as well as teenage pregnancy.

It is to this regard that CREAW supported and attended the annual ARP ceremony in Mokogodo, Isiolo county, on the invitation of our community champions in Leparua. In partnership with anti FGM champions in Mokogodo, our champion organized for this anti-FGM graduation ceremony that mimics the actual ceremony albeit devoid of the cutting.

“ARP is a very successful intervention though it needs a lot of funds to implement, if implemented well it has capacity to end FGM. When Kajiado county started ARPs community shied away, people were skeptical but today FGM is least practiced there” Margaret Champion Leparua

In the successful ceremony, 200 girls, 20 from Leparua and 180 from Mokogodo, graduated on the start of the 16 days of activism. In attendance were religious and cultural elders who blessed the new graduates as the highlight of the event. It is believed by speaking the blessings the elders by extent also remove the curse believed to follow girls who remain uncircumcised.

CREAW used the forum to advocate for a zero-FGM campaign and urged the girls to be good ambassadors of the campaign. CREAW staff distributed 200 dignity kits to the girls and pledged to support a bigger event next year that would incorporate Oldonyiro ward.

According to Kenya’s 2014 Demographic Health Survey, only 21 per cent of women in the country were circumcised in 2013, compared with 27 per cent in 2008-09 and 32 per cent in 2003.