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April 22, 2022by CREAWKENYA

In the year 2011, the Kenyan government passed the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act into law, imposing harsh criminal penalties for cutting. Global efforts have accelerated progress towards the elimination of female genital mutilation (FGM) for the past decade.

In cultures where FGM is entrenched in tradition and social norms, it takes courage to speak up against it. One such voice is that of 62 year old Nooretet Saidimu from Olootingual village in Narok County. The reformed cutter in now spearheading the protection of girls against the vice, albeit one village at a time. We were interested to find out what motivated the U-turn from a perpetrator to a protector.

Why is Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) still being carried out? 

Female genital mutilation was part and parcel of our life because it is a culture we found in existence. It signified the rite of passage from a girl into womanhood. Once a girl had been circumcised, she was ready to be married off. Their ages would range from 9 year old to 15 year old girls.

Talk to us about how you became a circumciser and what really motivated you into the practice.

Money was my biggest motivation. During peak season I would cut almost 50 girls for Kes 3000. That was quick money. I have been a traditional circumciser for over 20 years. Unlike others, none of my siblings or even mother was a cutter. Majority of women in this community have gone through my hands. However, I noticed recently that the police officers as well as the area chief were on our case, claiming what we were doing was a crime. I confronted our area chief because his mother was a retired circumciser, whereas I am the one who circumcised his wife before he married her. I felt like he was misleading this current generation of young girls.

So how did you go about it since you were now being on the local administrators radar and where exactly was your turning point?

I started hiding the girls in the bushes, where we would do the initiation. Girls would be brought in the forest at night where I would initiate them and nurse them to recovery. One day the police got wind of what I was doing and came to rescue the girls in the forest. We took off with the girls who were nursing fresh wounds. Unfortunately one of them died due to excessive bleeding while we were being pursued by the police. Though I know lack of proper care and the cold in the forest must have contributed to her being weak as well. That was my turning point.

Did you immediately let go off the practice and turned a new leaf?

One day some community champion came over to my place to have a candid discussion with me in regards to FGM. After we had that long discussion, she convinced me to go for some training that they were conducting in Narok regarding FGM. I was hesitant to go since I thought it was a trap to arrest me ( she chuckles covering her face) but I later on decided to go.

Other than being a “cutter” were you engaged in any other economic generating activity?

No. I solely looked forward to the initiation seasons. Once in a while I would do beadwork as a pastime activity but not for sale. For me FGM was not only part of my culture but also an income generating activity. When I decided to stop, my concern was how I was going to make money now that this stream of income had been closed.

What changed your mind and attitude towards FGM to the point of being a champion of girls education?

One day our trainers took us to a graduation ceremony in Meru county where a girl was being fated. I could not control tears in my eyes. I realised how I had hampered girls in my community from securing education and graduating to better their lives. That is when I swore not to champion for FGM, rather advocate for girls education.

Other encounters that affirmed your pursuit to protection of girls against FGM?

One day we were invited for a community forum with the local administrators here in Narok as reformed cutters. I noticed the District Officer is a Maasai woman from my community. I asked her privately if she had undergone the cut and if she was married. This is because girls in my community did not hold such high ranking positions at places of work.  To my surprise, she confirmed not being initiated and was equally married to a Maasai man. That is when I realised that there are men who are marrying women who are uncut.

Another incident happened when I accompanied my fellow champions to a health facility in the neighbouring town. We visited the labour ward where women who were brought in ready to deliver were accommodated. I noticed those that had undergone the cut would take longer in labour and would sometimes develop complications, whereas the other ones took little time and delivered naturally. That is when the doctor confirmed to me that FGM has a direct implication to difficulty during child birth.

How has it been so far, championing for the protection of girls against FGM?

It has not been easy since we are in a patriarchal society, where men dictate our culture. I am engaging young men who I believe are the change makers and the ones who will transform this community. They are now championing for the protection of their sisters and are coming out publicly to marry women that are not circumcised. I am also standing up for my daughter who have not gone through the cut. One has graduated from university as a medical doctor, she is now a beacon of hope to her peers.

Any regrets?

It really pains me knowing that I was shedding innocent blood in the name of culture. I honestly pray that God forgives me for I was acting out of ignorance. For the remaining days of my life, I want to ensure this coming generation in my community does not go through what we went through.

Parting shot

I want to thank CREAW for taking us through the extensive training on effects of FGM. I feel like am living life afresh since I have a new purpose. I am skilled and very confident to talk about child protection and champion for girls education. Wacha wasichana wasome (Let our girls get education)

According to the Kenya Demographic Health Survey 2014, overall prevalence of FGM has decreased from 38 per cent in 1998, to 21 per cent in 2014. Various stakeholders are urging both state and non-state actors to allocate more resources to eradication campaigns, as FGM is still being carried out in some communities. Narok County is one of the counties in Kenya where FGM is still prevalent and is believed to have contributed to the high number of teenage pregnancy and child marriage.

 


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January 26, 2021by CREAW

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, government enforced social distancing restrictions among them the stay at home order in a bid to suppress transmission of the Coronavirus and keep people healthy, but for many women and girls home became a ‘danger zone’ as they were forced to be in the ‘lockdown’ with their abusive spouses, partners and family members and cut off from supportive network and resources that could help them.

The ordeal of one evening morning in early July, brings gloomy memories to 38 year old *Nafula (not her real name). Her husband of three years had turned against her; what started as verbal insults progressed real quick into physical leaving her bruised.

“It was not the first time that he was abusive to me. At one point he hired goons to beat me up,” recounts Nafula.

Nafula’s own abusive experiences form part of the statistics of countless women and girls whose lives have been affected by the wave of gender based violence during the pandemic. In December 2020, a report by the National Crime Research Center indicated that incidences of gender based violence had increased by 92 percent in the period of January and June compared to that of January and December in 2019, with murder, sexual offences, defilement, grievous harm, physical abuse, child neglect and child marriages taking the larger chunk of cases.

Similarly, the Center for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW) has received increased cases of women and girls reporting violations. On average, CREAW would received 20 cases in a month, with the Covid-19 pandemic, the numbers have spiked to 34 cases necessitated by the social and economic effects of COVID-19 on women and girls. Consequently, the demand for legal and counselling support was on the rise.

Amidst the surge, CREAW rolled out a 24 hour hotline-0800-720-186 to help survivors like Nafula to access support services virtually including legal information, counselling, access to safe shelters and referrals to other GBV services.

With the support from grassroots community champions and messaging on community radios and social media, CREAW has been able to publicise the hotline that now have over flow of cases reported even from the counties in the outskirts of Nairobi.

“Through the hotline, survivors are able to get timely legal aid services, information and psycho-social support to rebuild their lives,” says Nereah Oderah, the lead Counsellor who supports survivors through the helpline.

With the support from UNDP, CREAW has adapted its interventions to provide free tele-counselling and pro-bono legal services to survivors of gender based violence among them, women and girls who reside in the informal settlements of Nairobi. A total of 597 GBV survivors benefitted from pro-bono legal assistance & advice during the pandemic period.

 

 


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June 7, 2020by CREAW

At 49 years old, Glady Kosgey knows too well the wins of having girls go to school. As a mother, her only hope has been to see her three girls build better futures. Despite the inequalities that many other girls from her community faced in their efforts to gain education, she ensured that her three girls did not undergo FGM and were able to complete their tertiary levels of education. Today, she continues to spread her voice out, traversing through Transmara, Narok County and beyond to raise awareness on the need to have more and more girls from pastoralists communities enrolled in school 

 “It is sad that many families still view girls as a waste of resources as they would soon be married off,” says Gladys, a renowned women’s rights activist, “I want girls to get the education I never got as a young girl.”  

In 2003, Kenya introduced free primary education in a bid to increase enrolment of children: boys and girls in school. This was to put girls and boys at a level playing field in realizing their rights to education. Since then, a number of policies and laws have been domesticated at the national and county levels to bridge the gender gap in access to basic education including enacting a law to end FGM. Despite that, girls ailing from nomadic communities still do not enjoy their right to education. 

In 2019, Narok was singled out as the County with the highest number of teen mothers with 40% of girls aged between 10 and 14 forced to sit for their Kenya Certificate of Primary Education from their hospital beds as they recuperate from childbirth. This coupled with age-old practice of female genital cutting that force girls out of school as they are married off to well-off elderly men in exchange for cows. 

Against this, Gladys and other activists enjoined in the community mobilization efforts united to galvanize support and fundraise for school fees and school essentials for 111 students in the area who were transitioning to secondary schools.  

“My ears are always out for new opportunities for girls. When I got wind of the Presidential bursary that targeted needy children in the county, I mobilized fellow women and we approached the County Commissioner,” she says, adding that it was not an easy task for them to get a hearing as there was a predetermined list of students, majority of who were boys. 

 “The next step was to petition all the county authorities on the matter. We wrote to the County Commissioner keeping the office of the Woman Representative, and the County Executive Member of Education in copy to demand for accountability and that the bursaries be allocated on equal measures among boys and girls,” explains Gladys who is happy that their steadfastness paid off; 57 girls got scholarships and are now schooling in various boarding schools in the County.  

As we engage, I get a sense of her outspoken nature and her grip of the cultural disparities that affect girls among the pastoralist community where she ails. She tells me that her outspokenness did not just begin yesterday; it all began in the 2000s when she stood to be elected as a councilor. And even though she was not elected then, her unwavering zeal came into play in 2013 when she vied again to be a Member of the County Assembly. Her reasons; “ I wanted to show other women that it is possible to be at the table where key decisions are made. With the culture that mutes women’s voices, I believe our collectiveness as women is part of the solution to the problems that affects us, our sisters and our daughters,” says Gladys who wears many hats. Currently chairs the Maendeleo Ya Wanawake ( in her Sub-County. 

And what does the future look like for the lifelong women and girls’ rights champion? 

“For starters, I am grateful for the support and trainings offered by CREAW in our community awareness raising efforts,” she says in reference to the Wajibika initiative that is supported by UNTF and implemented by CREAW in Narok and Isiolo Counties. 

Under Wajibika, the women-led groups are capacity built on ways to mobilize and rally communities around on issues that affects the wellbeing of women and girls as well as engage with authorities to effect policy changes that addresses the plight of women and girls more so, FGM and other forms of gender based violence. 

Overtime, Glady’s and her co-activists have carried out community conversations targeting parents, women, men and the community elders in an effort to transform their behaviors and perceptions on the traditional practices, rituals and attitudes that perpetuate discrimination and infringement of women and girls’ civil liberties. 

“Slowly the community is shaping up and growing more sensitive the rights of women and girls and equity issues; now we have more girls going to school and women are able to own and gain access to land and other matrimonial properties. We are not there yet, but we are keep on till every girl and woman is respected, able to go to school, marry when they want and are able to lead dignified lives free of violence,” she concludes. 

 


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February 4, 2020by CREAW

By Christine Ogutu

Thursday afternoon, the weather is chilly and the usually busy Githongo pitch has no sight of any young ones kicking around the ball in the pitch or athletes working out as in the usual. In the surroundings, the densely constructed shelters are slowly shifting the small rural town of Githongo to an urbanized community center.

Utawala Chiefs Group at the Githongo Chief Camp. PHOTO/CREAW

Looking on to the vast field in the left corner is the Githongo Chiefs Offices. Outside, a group of women and men are seen chit chatting. Their starched and well-pressed brown khaki uniform brings their steadfastness to the fore; their threaded shoulders mark them out as protectors and defenders of the larger community as their call of duty bestows them.

The uniformed women and men are Chiefs from Imenti Central, Meru County who came together to establish the 14 members Utawala Chiefs Group with an aim to better provide coordinated response to GBV matters in their localities. Today, they are having their usual biweekly meetings to discuss the emerging issues in the community.

At the location level in Kenya’s administrative system, Chiefs are charged with mandate to maintain order within their jurisdiction. For the Utawala group, the work in the community goes over and above their call of duty. They derive passion from a violence free society where women and girls live in dignity, are better protected and able to move freely and thrive and thus their continued conversations and coordinated response to the ills that bedevils their community.

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For more than two years now, they have been working together, raising their voices and driving conversations through Chiefs’ Barazas to educate their communities on the ills of GBV and the channels of reporting.

“I was privileged to be part of the Chiefs’ training that taught them on how to handle and support survivors when they report violations,” says Faith Kagwiria, a Chief at Kathurune West Location and also a member of the Utawala Chiefs.

As the first respondent when an incident occurs, it is paramount that Chiefs like Faith are well vast with the roles and responsibilities they play in regards to the various matters reported thus, CREAW through the Haki Yetu Jukumu Letu initiative came in handy to build their capacity to enable them to effectively support survivors and respond to the needs of the locals.

The initiative now in its third year of implementation and supported by the Embassy of Netherlands in Kenya equips Chiefs among other duty bearers with the knowledge on GBV related laws, how to document and report matters as well as how to set up community structures that promotes safe spaces in the community.

“Not a day goes, without widows flocking my office puzzled, confused and bewildered when their in-laws take away their matrimonial lands,” narrates Phyllis Mungatia who is the Chairperson of the Utawala Chiefs.

She says the inequalities when it comes to access and control of matrimonial land particularly in the agricultural rich region of Meru disenfranchises women.

It is such that draws the Utawala group to work with a unity of purpose. Their work in the community is slowly gaining momentum with the continued conversations, the community is slowly opening up and speaking out on matters such as incest that were shelved at family level.

“Apart from the weekly chief barazas, we also conduct targeted dialogues with men, women and in schools,” explains Stella Kinoti.

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She goes on to say that they have also consistently taught the village elders and area managers on how to tackle GBV noting that it takes both individual and community actions to create a ideal community for all. The Nyumba Kumi clusters have also come in handy to map out cases like female genital mutilation and child neglect.

But as Lucy Magiri puts it, their success has not been without the challenges. Sometimes they are forced to flee their homes or handle cases under cover for fear of their lives. Nonetheless, together, they affirm that their actions are just a starting point to lasting change in the community. They are positive that with their collective efforts, their neighbourhoods will violence free.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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January 31, 2020by CREAW

In Kilifi County, pregnancy remains a key barrier to girls’ education. In 2018 alone, over 17000 girls fell pregnant – some of the cases are attributed to wayward bodaboda riders who lure young girls with gifts and impregnate them; some girls also fall pregnant after being molested by those they trust most: relatives teachers and clergymen.

When we meet 16 year old *Riziki at her maternal grandparents home, she is cuddling her two year old son- a product of an affair she had with the bodaboda rider. Then, she was in Form two.

“I met him on my way to school and he offered to transport me,” she says. What followed were everyday rides that transitioned into sexual encounters.

“He promised to take care of me but denied being the father of my baby when I informed him I was pregnant,” says Riziki

Like many other girls in Kilifi, Riziki forms part of the statistics of girls whose dream to ascend higher in education and make their future a reality is cut shot by pregnancy emanating from wayward bodaboda riders.

In the wake of this, CREAW through the Haki Yetu Jukumu Letu initiative with the Embassy of Netherlands in Kenya incorporated the Bodaboda riders in the community outreaches where they learn how to ensure that children are safe and well protected from sexual violence and other ills in their communities.

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Daniel Tinga is the chairperson of Bodaboda riders in Kaloleni Sub County. He tells us that through the community outreaches he has learnt the dangers that sexual violence pose on the lives of young girls. From the lessons, he teaches his fellow riders to uphold respect and dignity of the women and girls they come into contact with.

“As a bodaboda rider I have the responsibility to ensure my customers whether young or old, arrive to their destination safely,” says Tinga.

In Ganze, Tinga’s counterparts are also organizing around the issue of defilement that has labeled them as perpetrators. In them is a resolve defy the ‘normal’ – they are building agency and using their voices to champion for good.

“ As a father I want, other girls in my community to grow well and complete their education just as my daughters. I want girls to fly high and build our village to greater heights,” says Shadrack Kazungu, a bodaboda rider at Matano Manne, Ganze Sub County.

He explains to us that after attending various community dialogues by CREAW his outlook on violence against women and girls has changed.

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“I learnt that cat calling and groping violates the rights of girls. Before I was never attentive to such matters because in my industry, they are ‘normal.’ I am glad there is a shift, the conversations have helped us build consensus amongst us,” he says while noting that, in their Association they are on the look out for individuals who goes against the ethics and conduct they have set as such, they are excommunicated and matters referred to the police.

At Kibaoni, the Bodaboda riders’ voices are even getting more louder in their day to day work. In their numbers, they want Kibaoni Bodaboda Association to be known for good. With their collective voices, they are certain that their community can only getter better.

“We have a good relationship with village elders and Chiefs within Kibaoni who help us in tackling gender violence matters even among our circles,” says Sudi Zalikini.

Writing by Christine Ogutu

 


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June 26, 2019by CREAW

Meru County has become the first county to domesticate model legislation on Sexual and Gender Based Violence.

The policy developed with the support from CREAW is designed to help accelerate and reinforce efforts towards the elimination of all forms of gender based violence (GBV) and improve the quality of life for women and men, boys and girls in the county.

Speaking during the launch of the policy, Meru County Governor Kiraitu Murungi reiterated his commitment to end all forms of gender based violence (GBV). The governor praised stakeholders for their support in addressing the vice in the county.

“I have a dream to make Meru great but we cannot do this with women being battered and oppressed yet they constitute half of the population,” said the Governor, while recognizing that women play a critical role in the development of communities they live in.

Governor Kiraitu explained that “the county government will increase access to quality and comprehensive response and support services across sectors and facilitate the establishment safe houses.” This will go along way in improving accountability SGBV service delivery.

In 2018, Meru County launched the Twaweza initiative to enable women build strong livelihoods and a voice to challenge oppressive norms that denies them the opportunity to lead.

“I commit to providing the necessary support- financial and human resources to ensure that the policy is well implemented. I am a womanist and I support the liberation of women and girls from all forms of violence and discrimination,” he said.

The adoption of the policy comes at a time when media reports are awash with cases of women being killed by their intimate partners and girls forced to undergo female genital mutilations.

The Gender and Special Development County Executive Member (CEC) Nkirote Kailanya bemoaned the high prevalence of SGBV in the county. Surveys have indicated that about 66.7 per cent of women have experienced GBV in the preceding 12 months.

“This policy was developed on the principle that SGBV represents not only a human rights violation, but also a hidden obstacle to economic and social development. Domestic violence not only entails private costs for the victims and their families, but also wider social and economic costs, which in the end slow down the rate of development of a community,” Kailanya said.

CREAW’s Executive Director Wangechi Wachira lauded the county effort to ensure that women and girls are better protected and are able to lead dignified lives.

“It is a great time for survivors. With the police more power and voice has been accorded to women and girls. We will continue to work with the County and stakeholders in ending GBV,” said Wangechi.

Stakeholders present at the event lauded the move stating that the policy will ensure that GBV services are better coordinated.

Writing by Christine Ogutu