EndFGM Archives - CREAWKENYA

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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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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.

 

 


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July 3, 2020by CREAW

Until recently, 80-year-old Rukia Isaack was a fervent supporter of the Female Genital Cutting (FGC), which she inculcated across generation as a right of passage to womanhood for all the girls in her community. 

“I started circumcising girls at the age of 26 as an economic activity. During school holidays I would circumcise up-to 15 girls in a day,” says Rukia who has since abandoned the cut, all thanks to the house-to-house community conversations conducted by activist like Mumina Elena that is shifting how communities in Isiolo perceive and act to

wards FGC. 

Mumina now 34 years old was among the girls who passed through the hands of Rukia. She was 10 years old then. Today, she is dutifully turning the tide, educating her community on the dangers of FGC to save girls from the harrowing ordeal. 

And what a better way to cause change than starting with the woman who circumcised her! 

“Rukia is a perfect example that ending FGM is possible. I am glad she heed to my call to abandon the cut,” says Mumina. 

To Rukia, cutting girls was just like any other cultural ritual not knowing the harm she was causing the lives of many young girls some of them her daughters. In the occasional visits to the households, Mumina purposefully targeted to visit Rukia daily, educating her of the outlawed practice.  

This turned out to be the tipping point for Rukia-“I feared going to prison.”  Today; she is mobilizing the community against FGM and child marriages. During community dialogues, Rukia reminisces her experiences as a circumciser to persuade her community to abandon the cut. 

When we meet on a warm Tuesday afternoon, Mumina is facilitating a community dialogues in Kambi Ordha village where Rukia is among the community members listening keening- her exquisite face is framed by a brightly toned scarf wrapped around her head and neck. She cheerfully grins as her fruity voice invites women; men and the girls gathered to a rather subject that is so dear to her- one that must be spoken out loud! 

Months ago, Mumina and her co-activists received trainings from CREAW under the Wajibika Initiative supported by United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence against Women aimed at raising awareness on the dangers associated with FGM and other forms of gender based violence (GBV). It is through the trainings that she also learnt of the various ways to mobilize and rally communities against the gendered restrictions that limit that progress of girls in her community. 

“The trainings opened my eyes to the day to day realities of many girls. I knew my starting point would be to change the mindset of the elderly in the community hence the pictorial illustrations came in handy,” explains Mumina in reference to the SASA! poster discussions that guides her conversations with the community on GBV issues. 

Karu Ibrahim who lives in Kina Sub-County, 200 kilometers away from where Rukia resides has also downed her circumcision knife as activists continues to galvanize support from community elders, the police, men and women to end the cut. In Kina, the community conversations are also taking shape among the Borana community. 

“I learnt that FGC does not help girls in any way. Even though I lost my source of livelihood, I am proud to be a good example to other mothers,” narrates the 43-year-old Karu. 

“You know, FGC is something valued among the Boranas. It inculcates a sense of respect. Girls who are not cut are considered dirty,” she adds.   

Slowly, we are seeing communities waking up to the reality that girls too reserve the right to make decisions about their bodies and their voices cannot be undervalued anymore among the largely pastoralist community- Makai Mamo, a community activist in Kina tells us. 

Apart from the community conversations, the women activists under the auspices of the Wajibika project have also employed the use of radios to reach out to the masses.  

“We also hold talks with girls in schools to educate them about FGM and help them talk about their experiences,” says Makai as she explains that it was not easy for girls to speak about the taboo topic but after a series of mentorship talks, girls are now opening up and refusing to be cut.