Message from the Founder
Sr. Dr. Ephigenia Gachiri
I grew up in the village during the State of Emergency in Kenya in the ‘50s and early ‘60s.
Women were the worst hit by poverty, disease and famine. I witnessed many diseases and useless deaths, especially of young children, that could have been avoided by basic knowledge of hygiene and use of proper diet.
My mother was a teacher and my father a civil servant, so I saw them, especially my mother, educating women on basic issues of child care. She was educated in a Loreto school in the ‘30s.
Both of my parents were Catholics, and my mother taught Catechism to the neighbors. They sent me to a convent primary school, where my vocation to help women and girls raise themselves up from bad conditions and misery through education continued to be nurtured.
In February 1965 I joined the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, commonly known as Loreto Sisters. Two of us were the first Africans to join the Institute.
I trained at Kenya Science Teachers College in Nairobi, obtained my BA at the University of Calcutta in India and the MA at the Birmingham University in England and my PHD at Kenyatta University, Kenya. I have taught in various institutions including Secondary schools, pastoral institutes, colleges, seminaries and university.
In 1995 I represented religious sisters in the United Nations’ Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing. It is there that the horror of FGM (female genital mutilation) hit me hard. The sheer numbers of survivors (over 200 million today) overwhelmed me. The revelation that most of them were Africans made me wonder, “Why again another problem for the African woman, on top of all she suffers already, perpetuated by women themselves – why?”
I realized that the secondary school girls and the women in colleges where I taught were already damaged by FGM by the time they joined these institutions of higher learning.
It was after that conference that I resolved to go to the villages and educate parents and stakeholders on the harmful effects that FGM does to their daughters and, later, to the family.
I began Termination of FGM, a project of Loreto Sisters, in 1998.
Since then, I have written four books on FGM and developed a rite of passage for modern boys and girls in Kenya and Africa. These books are widely used in Kenya and elsewhere by persons of all churches and cultures. The project has given seminars, workshops and rites of passage throughout Kenya and even in Tanzania. We have developed charts, produced an informational DVD, and made pamphlets in many languages, teaching manuals and other tools.
The project has entered a second phase, construction of the “Abundant Life Centre,” a place for training trainers and conducting research on FGM matters for the whole of Africa.
We are in urgent need of donations for this dire need and silent "killer of joy" that African women have endured and will continue to endure unless we do something now.