Concerted efforts to end gender violence and FGM

Monday, December 11th, 2023 07:20 | By
Concerted efforts to end gender violence and FGM
Jacinta Lekwale, FGM survivor. Stakeholders are working together to eradicate the practice in Isiolo. PHOTO/Sandra Wekesa

As is customary to the Samburu traditions, Jacinta Lekwale was ready for initiation which entailed Female Genital Mutilation before being married off immediately.

Although the rite of passage sounded lucrative since other girls of her age were embracing it, the thought of her undergoing FGM triggered her.

“I was sceptical about undergoing the cut. My mother, being a cutter, made it scarier because I would often hear how girls who came for the procedure reel in pain during the process,” she recalls.

 She eventually gave into her parent’s pressure of undergoing the cut.

The healing process was not something she would want to remember but what really haunt her to date were the events that unfolded thereafter being married.

“Shortly after this I got pregnant and that was when all the troubles began. On my first delivery I got a tear which eventually led to fistula that took about eight months to heal. During this period I could not stand, clean and take care of my child,” she says.

Due to her past traumas it took her long to conceive a second time, something that took a toll in her marriage.

“I did not want to give birth again because of what had happened previously. However, I eventually decided to have another baby and suffered some complications in the process,” she says.

Just like Lekwale, so many women who have undergone FGM report having developed significant complications.

Other than that, FGM is recognised internationally as a violation of human rights, health and integrity of girls and women. It impedes the enjoyment of rights of women and girls including sexual and reproductive health rights and exposes victims to serious health, psychological, physical, and social consequences.

According to Kenya Demographic Health Statistics 2022, about 34 per cent of women have experienced Gender-Based Violence.

Additionally, the report indicates a drop in FGM prevalence from 21 to 15 per cent nationally among women aged 15-49 years although they still record disparaging regional variations among practicing ethnic groups. While this is a good marker of progress towards achieving zero FGM by 2030 through the acceleration of efforts by the government and partners for the abandonment of FGM.

Efforts to have no FGM cases should be sustained and scaled up for the protection of girls and women to facilitate sustainable development.  In light of the above, Voice of Women Rights Network is working towards eradicating FGM in Isiolo.

Abdia Gedi, organisation vice-chair, says Isiolo happens to have high prevalence of FGM due to various factors, the main being cultural beliefs and practices entrenched within the communities.

Social acceptance

“FGM is often seen as a tradition and a way to maintain social acceptance, preserve purity, and control female sexuality which most often leads to complications later on in their lives,” she says.

 Therefore, to address the issue of FGM, the county, along with various stakeholders, has been implementing strategies and programmes aimed at ending the practice. Biba Hassan, a senior assistant chief in Burat, says Isiolo County Government has been working closely with NGOs, community leaders, and activists to raise awareness about the harmful effects of FGM and promote alternative cultural practices. “Some of these remedies include conducting workshops, campaigns, and community dialogues to engage community members and change existing beliefs,” she says.

She adds that they are investing in education programmes that emphasise the importance of education for girls and promote gender equality.

“By providing access to quality education and mentorship programmes, the county aims to empower young girls and change societal norms that perpetuate FGM,” she says. In addition, they have been promoting alternative rites of passage, which preserve cultural values and rituals without subjecting girls to FGM.

“These programmes involve community engagement and participation to develop alternative ceremonies that celebrate the transition from childhood to adulthood without harmful practices,” she says.

Medina Abdi, Director Gender in Isiolo says changing deeply rooted cultural practices take time, education and sustained efforts. That is why they are working along with other stakeholders to continue its commitment to creating a society where FGM is no longer practiced, protecting the rights and well-being of girls and women.

Diram Duba, project coordinator at Action Aid explains that although FGM cases have significantly reduced, there are still emerging trends in FGM cases in this area.

“We have medicalisation of FGM whereas girls are taking themselves to hospital to have the procedure done, girls cutting themselves, increased cross border FGM, cutting of married women and even cutting of infants of as young as six months,” she says.

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