First Lady advocates for alternative rites to FGM

By , People Daily Digital
Tuesday, December 7th, 2021 09:00 | 2 mins read
First Lady Margaret Kenyatta

First Lady Margaret Kenyatta has lobbied stakeholders and communities to support the adoption of alternative rites of passage that involve mentorship to replace female genital mutilation (FGM).

“The proposal to take girls through a 15-day initiation programme comprising of sessions on mentorship into adulthood, healthy relationships, life skills training, basic home economics and the art of bead-making is, indeed, welcome,” she said.

The First Lady spoke in Nairobi on Monday when she launched the Johari Beads Bracelet initiative, a programme of the Government and partners to promote the trade in beads in support of efforts to end FGM in the country by next year.

The First Lady encouraged stakeholders in the anti-FGM campaign to adopt the alternative rites of passage urging responsible state agencies not to relent in efforts to end the retrogressive practice.

Development partners

“I also encourage our elders, as the custodians of culture, and all those who support them, including youth and women organisations, development partners, as well as civil society and religious organisations to maintain this strong momentum towards eliminating FGM. We owe it to our women and girls,” she said.

She also welcomed the Johari’s initiative, saying it has the potential to significantly empower women from the pastoral and other communities that practise bead work.

“As such, I see it as a major step towards the noble agenda of the government to eliminate FGM. To achieve gender equality as required by our constitution and ensure that Kenyan women realise their full potential we must, and I repeat, we must end FGM,” the First Lady said.

She pointed out that FGM poses long-term health risks to young women and often leads to school dropout and early marriages, thus compromising the opportunities for social and economic advancement for the affected girls.

At the same time, the First Lady expressed satisfaction that the Johari Beads initiative – which is a partnership between UNFPA, the Anti-FGM Board, Ushanga Kenya Initiative and EcoBank geared towards the economic empowerment of women – has blossomed into a major transformative programme.

“The principal objective of this programme is to empower women and girls from pastoral communities by supporting them to use their bead-making skills to earn an income while using the adornment from the beads to symbolize the transition to womanhood. 

“I note with satisfaction that under the Ushanga Kenya Initiative, Johari beads have become an emblem of the eradication of FGM,” the First Lady said.  

She observed that the initiative has become a key source of income for women in the seven pastoralist counties of West Pokot, Baringo, Samburu, Turkana, Narok, Marsabit and Kajiado where FGM is most prevalent. 

The First Lady said she was pleased that the programme has reached over 5,000 women and helped them to establish 60 cooperative societies.

In this regard, she urged officers of the state department of culture and heritage to work with their trade and enterprise development to link the initiative’s social enterprise with wider markets and opportunities at the regional and global level. 

“I would expect the discussion to address the challenges facing Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the bead ecosystem and to come up with viable measures to curb the threat of fake imports and to strengthen the bead value chain,” the First Lady said.

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