FGM Archives - CREAWKENYA

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December 17, 2021by CREAWKENYA

In the advent of COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the Kenyan government took measures to curb the spread of the virus. One such intervention was the indefinite closure of schools. Children had to go back home, unfortunately, some went back to parents who had lost their means of livelihoods or worse still, some lost their parents through the virus.

Meru county was not different from other parts of the country. In fact, Ripples International, a child focused organization had to open wide its doors for abused children as many cases were being reported.

“A lot of rescue procedures were hampered, hence we had to be innovative and that is how we started tele-counselling,” Says Prince Mwenda, Ripples International senior project manager.

On average, the Tumaini Center under Ripples International, can comfortably accommodate 40 children per year, however, 10 months into 2021, the center has already registered 53 girls and is still counting.

The influx in number of children and severe cases of abuse became a concern, as the center was overstretched in resources and could not offer much needed support to the young girls seeking a safe piece of haven in the institution.

“Thanks to the support we got from CREAW, we are able to afford food and other basic needs for the girls at the shelter. We also get counselling support for our girls and staff who need it,” Affirms Mwenda.

According to Brian Mwirigi, CREAW’s Pro-bono lawyer in Meru county,  children matters are very demanding, emotive and require right representations.

“Sometimes the case is brought to me when it is too late. Many survivors don’t report the first abuse due to perpetrators threatening them with death, hence repeated offence against the survivor,” Says Mwirigi.

Agnes Oduma is a Social Worker, who has been supporting girls at the Tumaini Center. According to her, she receives more cases of sexual abuse, followed by assault meted against the children.

“It breaks my heart to see these young ones brought it broken and traumatized. It is necessary to continue community sensitization and enlightening parents to take care of their children. Some have been abused by close family members,” Sighs Agnes.

Carol Muriuki, is a human rights champion and resident of Kithithina in Buuri, Meru County, is the go-to person when cases of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) occur in the area. Carol is among a group of champions trained on gender-based violence by CREAW through the Usawa na Haki project. She says that in most defilement cases, where the perpetrators are relatives of the survivor, were being hidden, leaving survivors to suffer.

“We have sensitized children on how they can report cases of defilement, especially where a relative is involved. From this, we have had children report such incidents to their teachers or to me,” she says.

Ms Mercy Nkatha, the assistant chief for Nduruma sub-location in Imenti Central, is a member of Utawala Chiefs Group that brings together 15 administrators bound by the desire to stem SGBV.

“We formed the group as chiefs to address our welfare, but in our meetings, we noted there was a rise in gender-based violence across our jurisdictions. Most of the concerns were cases of defilement and we decided to do something,” Ms Nkatha says.

The assistant chief notes that the CREAW training has helped them to better handle cases of defilement and domestic violence, making it possible for perpetrators to face justice. She has been led in sensitizing boda boda riders, members of Nyumba Kumi and other community members on SGBV.

With such efforts by various stakeholders working towards stemming out the vice of GBV and threatening the safety of women and girls, Usawa na Haki dhidi ya dhulma project hopes to achieve safe spaces for women and girls to flourish.


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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. 

 


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March 20, 2020by CREAW

By Grace Katee

For 12 years Margaret Sepengo was a renowned female circumciser in the remote village of Leparwa tucked in the north of Isiolo County.

In 2015 she abandoned the cut all thanks to the sensitization efforts by CREAW auspiced under the Tunza Mama Na Mtoto project aimed at empowering communities to abandon retrogressive cultural practices such as Female Genital Mutilation (FMG) that inhibits on maternal and newborn health.

With the support from UKAid through Christian Aid, the project that is in its third year of implementation adopted a community mobilization approach dubbed SASA! (Start, Awareness, Support, Action),to educate and inspire communities to take actions for social change.

Margaret was lucky to be among those who were capacity built on maternal health issues and how they can use the knowledge to advocate against FGM, early marriages, teen pregnancies and gender based violence all of which are rooted deep in culture and the leading causes of maternal and newborn motilities and morbidities in the larger Isiolo County.

“It is the trainings that enabled me shun the practice and engage in alternative source of livelihood,” says Margaret who is now a respected community activist who is using the SASA! model to change perceptions and attitudes of her community towards FGM.

Female Genital Mutilation as she puts it, used to be the cornerstone of livelihoods for many households but the situation has changed. When she learned the art of the cut, her only motivation was to eke a living.

“I used to admire an elderly neighbour who used to circumcise girls and would earn a lot of money. Being a third wife and an only breadwinner in the family, I learnt the art and would make Sh1000 from each girl. The prices would go up to Sh2500 during high season and sometimes poor families will offer their goats or cattle,” she says.

“With the sustained community dialogues targeting the council of elders, men and women, the community has opted abandoned the age-old tradition,” she adds.

In her quest to have the elders lift the ban on the curse placed on any man who marries uncircumcised girl, Margaret reach out to the Masaai Morans to have the elders allow them to marry uncut women. The elders agreed to their quest and held a public forum to ‘break the curse.’ The forum held in Laikipia brought together the young and elderly from Masaai, Turkana and Samburu communities. This was a great step towards eradicating FGM.

“During the exchange visit between reformed circumcisers from Isiolo and Kajiado, I learnt the different initiative that my counterparts were using to have the elders to create a by-in with the elders who are the custodian of culture. I came back and embarked on the same. My efforts bore fruits,” explains the mother of four.

“Among pastoralist communities, uncircumcised girls were doomed to be a bad omen and outcasts. The blessings symbolized an end to the cut among the communities,” she says, adding, “ This was a step to ensuring that women and girls would now be free from early marriages and complications experienced during childbirth associated to FGM. “

Aside from her proactive activism in her community, she has enrolled herself into adult education program now in level three. She explains that like many girls in her community, she was married off to an elderly man at the age of 14 and was not able to ascend through to high school.

“If we give girls the opportunity to go to school, we will be able to break the cultural barriers and make healthy decisions for their reproductive health and that of their families and children,” she says.