Stop FGM

NARRATIVE REPORT: 1ST APRIL 2016 TO 31ST MARCH 2017

INTRODUCTION

The United Nations’ figures on the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, 5th February 2016 states that over 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone FGM the world.

The current statistics for Kenya is that over 21% of Kenyan women have gone through FGM. This is a significant drop compared to the United Nations figures for 2003 in which 34 % of Kenyan women had gone through FGM. It is also worth noting that the age of most of the cut women is between 40-49 years. In our experiences this year, we received reports of significant numbers of married women in Kenya going for the cut voluntarily and mostly probably coaxed by husbands, the in-laws and the community at large. This is a shift from the past years where only teenage girls aged 15-19 were going for the cut. The age of the girls undergoing the cut has also going down to 4 or5. The parents want the “deed” over before we teach their children to refuse the cut. As a result, the project is now extending anti-FGM seminars to PRE-UNIT teachers

However, no person has yet said they will have their daughters cut after our seminars and after viewing videos on FGM live. This is very encouraging to the TFGM project whose aim is to expose FGM, its consequences, its origin and its prevalence from the point of view of culture, religion and modern science.

Despite the slight decline in numbers in Kenya, FGM prevalence is in communities far from towns from 31% to as high as 94%. This is clear evidence that the fight against FGM is still very slow in such communities and that more commitment is still needed in order to realize zero FGM cases in Kenya by 2030.

The issue of FGM taking a new and more secretive course is not exclusive tor Kenya. In Tanzania too it has been noted that the Kuria community has changed tactics on the performance of the cut. Most of the girls are being taken for FGM at a very early age. According to UNICEF and the Tanzania National Bureau of statistics 32% of girls who went through FGM in 2015 were below one year of age. The communities have also scrapped the elaborate celebrations that announced the season. This has made it even more difficult to rescue the innocent girls who end up as victims of FGM.

PROJECT ACTIVITIES

The TFGM project carried out its sensitization campaign in:

(a)  Kajiado County, mainly in Rombo and Ngong:

(b) Nakuru County, mainly in Kuresoi, Mauch, Ndundori, Subukia, Gilgil, and

(C)  Baringo County mainly in Mogotio and

(d)   Bomet and

(e) Nairobi counties.

 

The project held six successful Christian Rite of Passage Workshops for girls and reached 948 girls. The workshops were held in Lower Subukia (87), Kiptangwanyi (87), Rombo (265), Upper subukia (181) Gilgil (180) and in Kabete (148).

It was saddening to learn that some of the girls invited for the Upper Subukia CROP, held in November 2016, did not attend the workshop but went for the female cut. This is after several sensitization sessions were held in schools. It was also learnt that most of the girls who were taken for the cut tried to negotiate with their parents but the parents were not ready to listen to them.

More school seminars were held in the year than previously and an additional 50 new facilitators for school seminars were trained. The project also exceeded the targeted number on young adults both male and female through one day and two days seminars. These are young married persons who are not accepted into their parents workshops.

It was also a good year for the fistula women groups who received 14 milking goats from well wishers to help them improve on the diet for their families.

The construction of Abundant Life Centre is still in progress. The hostel block is already complete and the construction of the kitchen is progressing well. We have received great support from our friends and donors in this project. We hope for a little more support in order to begin operations in the centre this year (2017).

NEW INFORMATION GATHERED IN 2016/17:

  1. Parents are now inviting relatives and friends to fund-raise for the graduation of their daughters from primary to secondary school. This is usually a big celebration which is a cover up. The funds are for the girls during seclusion period after they are circumcised. This was learnt during one of our CROP in Lower-Subukia 17th-24th April 2016.
  2. Infant mortality at birth is very high among pastoral communities where girls are circumcised and married off immediately after puberty. These communities have also abandoned traditions that regulated the diet of expectant mothers that ensured the fetus is healthy but small.
  3. A comment by an ex-nun (35yr): “We are circumcised for men. Our men like us this way, our men have not complained. It is for them that we are cut, when the men will complain, we shall stop.”
  4. It was a positive and joyful rainy day in November 20th 2016 when a police vehicle gave a lift to 15 girls and a mother on their way to CROP workshop in Lower Subukia.
  5. In December 2016, Project officers received phone calls from Tetu in Nyeri and from Narok asking her to come quickly and save girls. So many were being cut. The common belief among Tetu people is that FGM ended in Tetu 100 years ago.
  6. Mauche a) Three months ago, we witnessed three circumcisers abandon their trade publicly after learning the consequences of FGM and watching videos on FGM LIVE.
  7. Mauche b) Myth confirmed: The community in the area fight and raid across Mau Hills and back. If a man’s wife is not cut, that man cannot be selected to go for the raiding expedition. If he does, the expedition will be a failure and he himself will never come back alive.
  8. Findings in a school in Subukia, Nakuru County where a head teacher reported that FGM is a norm for most of the girls in her school in classes 6, 7, and 8.

In January alone, 2017, 3 girls dropped out of school after the cut due to pregnancy.

The drop- out rate of girls in classes 6, 7, and 8 is very high in the whole area.

  1. In a school in the same area, 7 girls invited our facilitator to their initiation ceremony which was planned to take place at the end of the year holiday, December 2017. They were very proud. Other girls joyfully described their graduation ceremonies were in the previous years (this was at the beginning of the seminar). The same girls were in tears at the end of the seminar.
  2. During the same period, married women from the area aged between 20-30 years old, were also going through FGM in large numbers. Husbands are of the wrong opinion that after the age of 18 a woman can “choose” to undergo FGM.
  3. People in the area are worried that maize may not be ready for December FGM cerebrations.
  4. After our workshops a) A chief who had attended our seminar brought his daughter to CROP very far from Kuresoi to Lower Subukia. Afterwards, the chief threw a huge feast for the girl. He invited many chiefs, elders and friends. He spoke about CROP and FGM and had the girl go through the ceremony of ‘coming out’ as a grown woman – out of seclusion. The girl gave a speech on Christian Rite of Passage to all present. She was given a new name and new cloths just as it happens during a traditional coming out.

The girl shared courageously with the visitors all she had learnt through the workshop. She emphasized on the importance of the Christian Rite of Passage that she had gone through as compared to the traditional rite of passage.

This ceremony was of great impact to the people of Olenguruone and made most of the parents want to know how their daughters would go through the same rite. The parents were requesting chief Benard to take their girls where he had taken his daughter. To respond to this need, the chiefs organize a Christian Rite of Passage Workshop in the area which was attended by 250 adults including 7 chiefs and one circumciser.

  1. Unfortunately another girl in the same area, Kuresoi went for the cut without her parents’ permission. The parents had attended our workshop. When the parents pulled her away from the “ring” and gave her such a beating, the girl died, December 2016

ROMBO, OLOITOKTOK ADULTS SEMINARS; 29th Dec 2016 – 3rd Jan 2017

  1. There were two workshops organized for male and female separately. Rombo is within Oloitokitok Parish in Ngong Diocese,Kajiado County. The community found here is mainly the Maasai, who are still among the main communities that practice FGM in Kenya.
  2. The men were surprised to learn about the reproductive parts of a woman’s body and to understand the damage done by FGM. All men said that the program was good and they learnt how God created each one of us and how all women should be respected and not be destroyed through FGM.
  3. After watching the live video on FGM operation and learning the consequences of FGM one participant, Simon Ole Nteese 52 years said they have now known the damage done to women and it’s only those who did not come for the seminar can continue with this satanic practice. Naanyu Ole Mayani said “we cut our girls because we do not know the negative effects of FGM and we do not fear being arrested. From now am taking a new stand, no more FGM in my home. I have got the knowledge; we need to educate our people on the bad effects of FGM but not to threaten them with the constitution. With knowledge, our people are going to stop FGM out of their own will.”
  4. Kashuru Saitoti, “I wish I got this information before my daughter went for the cut” the man felt sorry for his daughter but promised not to allow any of his grand daughters to undergo the cut.
  5. One woman, Rose Meshinda, 67 years old, also felt bad about herself and said, “I feel bad after understanding the damage done to us women, we shout stop this FGM, it is not good to anybody. Many women in our village have died during delivery. Let all the men be given these training so that they can help stop it.”
  6. The men were very happy with the workshop; they slaughtered a sheep every day for the five days that the seminar lasted.

ROMBO CROP AUGUST 2016

 

  1. As a result of the adult seminars Robo held a Christian Rite of Passage Workshop that had the highest number of girls’ the year. In spite of sending over 100 girls because the venue could accommodate only 265 girls. With this high number of girls the facilitators had to work extra hard. However all was well.

CHALLENGES

  1. The fight against FGM continues to face a lot of challenges in most parts of Kenya. Despite the extensive campaigns carried out by our facilitators and others, some communities are still having their girls going through the cut. A good example is in Mauche, Njoro, in Nakuru County where over 500 girls are reported to have gone through the cut between November and December 2016 even after our officer forewarned some leaders of the preparations taking. Our facilitators had already given seminars to parents in these locations and we did not expect such cases to be reported in this area.

Still in Mauche, Likia, some ladies were taken to court by the District Officer for involvement in the cutting of women. The lady officer handling the case gave the culprits modern clothes to wear in place of the traditional regalia (special, skins,) worn during female circumcision ceremonies, which they had on when arrested.  She was heard advising the ulprits “How can you expose our culture to foreigners?” The woman Police-officer would not let the media personnel cover the case.

  1. Even after a long campaign to stop FGM in Subukia, it is evident that is more needed to be done in order to convince the people of the urgency of stopping female circumcision. In December 2016 over two hundred married women and young girls went for the cut. The worst bit is that one of the married women was the wife to one of the assistant chiefs of the area.

In one of the seminars with women from Subukia , December 2016, several of them stormed out of the room and accused the others who were left as betrayers and that they were able to speak ill of others just because they did not have grown up girls who were ready for the cut. This is after some women reported to the facilitators of nine married women who had gone through the cut some days before this seminar.

In another episode we invited the members of A.I.P.C.E.A. church in Olmanyatta, lower Subukia for an anti-FGM seminar.  We had invited all the members in which about forty members attended. Members protested and stormed out saying they cannot be told or taught about one of their most important culture (female circumcision) and worst of all its termination. Most of them left and we remained with 26 members who were not in support of this culture. The church seemed to support the practice and it is also suspected that three women circumcisers are members of this church.

  1. It was very disheartening to a young nun who was unable to save a girl from FGM who for two years had pleaded with her to save her. The nun succeeded in 2015 but in 2016 when a date was set for her cut, Sister was helpless. The girl telephoned insistently but if the Sister helped the girl the girl’s family would shoot her and say that she was short by a stray bullet (Pokot).
  2. There has also been a challenge of the leaders turning a blind eye on the Female circumcision. There was a case in Subukia, Nakuru where the wife to the sub-chief went for the cut. The chiefs and the sub-chiefs are supposed to protect the law against FGM but in this case the authority is seen breaking the law.
  3. Ignorance among the law enforcers is also dragging the fight against FGM. In one case, a policeman claimed that he cannot arrest women found to have gone through FGM because he was not aware of such a law in Kenya. He sent one of our facilitators, who had come to report the case, away and told her to come back to the police station with a copy of the law on FGM prohibition.
  4. Robo subjected the project to a new and unique experience when some girls experimented with a new “fruit” that were in the school compound. The tree was wild and poisonous. Over one hundred girls ate the fruits and suffered severe stomach aches. Some were given pain relievers and with time they were okay. 40 girls however suffered terribly and had to be taken to the hospital during the night.
  5. The schools term-dates were altered in 2016 after the project had planned CROP seminars. Some had to be counseled. Again the schools went on holiday earlier which affected the delivery of school workshops and teachers workshops planned for the month of November.
  6. A chief went to arrest a group of newly circumcised women only to find that the first in the queue was his wife. She had said she was going to see her parents. The husband is suffering from much shame and has told her to go to her parent till he decides what to do.

Summary of seminars held between 1st April 2016 and 31st March 2017

 

SEMINARS

 

GROUP

Number of Seminars Number of

PARTICIPANTS

Number of

FACILITATORS

ONE/DAY SEMINAR   NO.OF SEMINARS MALE FEMALE TOTAL

Participants

MALE FEMALE TOTAL
  Pupils 68 4,419 5,237 9,925 62 98 160
  ADULTS 95 2004 3603 5607 117 131 248
TWO/DAYS SEMINAR  

ADULTS

 

19

 

467

 

401

 

868

 

23

 

33

 

56

FOUR/DAYS T.O.T ADULTS  

1

 

17

 

28

 

45

 

2

 

2

 

4

One/week Christian Rite of Passage  GIRLS  

6

 

0

 

948

 

948

 

11

 

19

 

30

TOTAL   189 7,725 9,925 17,124 215 283 498

 

CONCLUSION

The year 2016-2017 was full of energizing and fulfilling activities for the team. There were new experiences, new challenges and new encouragements. The project received great support from our partners and especially the Catholic Church and the civil society. One such experience was during workshops held in Rombo, Ngong Diocese; the priests committed themselves to mobilize the participants and also attended all the sessions of the workshops. Such a public stand by the Catholic Church will have great impact among the Maasai community.

For the first time, the participants offered a goat to be eaten on each day of the seminar.

In November and December 2016 the police arrested 8 married women who went through the cut and other 4 women who were the host of the victims. All of them were taken to Nakuru court and released with bonds of between KSH 50,000 and KSH 200,000. This action by the police and law enforcers will play a big role in fighting FGM. Since most of the people cannot afford the fine charged for the crime, they will be slow to have their daughters cut and hopefully opt for the alternative Rite of Passage.

A fund- raising dinner in aid of the construction of the Abundant Life Centre in June 2017 was a great success and a fair amount of cash was raised. The construction of Abundant Life Centre continues and still in need of funds from all well- wishers. Blessed be our God AMEN.

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