GBV with a focus on FGM

I Regret Pushing My Daughters to Undergo FGM; I Vow to Protect My Grand-daughters

Nyamira and Kisii, regions predominantly occupied by the Abagusii, record relatively extreme persistence of FGM prevalence-if the report by the 2014 Kenya Demographic Health Survey is anything to go by. One of the factors contributing to persistence is that the community is highly conservative and patriarchal. The value and belief systems have been this way from the pre-colonial to post-colonial, and remains in the contemporary society.

 “I pushed my wife to take my daughters for the cut. After we were informed that the activity was complete, we celebrated through eating and drinking. May God forgive me. FGM is our culture. There was no room for questioning culture. If I did not allow it, it would be extremely difficult for them to get married in our community.”

The words of Manae, a retired teacher based in Kebirigo, Nyamira. He has two daughters who recently  completed college and still waiting to be absorbed into the job market. He is among the 50 men living with FGM survivors who benefitted from the HFAW Men End FGM training held in December 2019, Nyamira, Kenya.

Manae’s sentiments resonate with the majority members of the community who continue to uphold FGM and conduct it in secrecy because there is a crackdown by the local chiefs following the orders of the president, Uhuru Kenyatta. 

Practising communities believe that FGM a source of self-esteem, value, and prestige for girls and women. Also, it is the only way a girl can become a wife, then access resources like land for cultivating and selling the produce for income. Without FGM, there is no way of learning about the social value-an assumption that creates a further social burden for girls and parents who resist the practice.

“I regret I pushed for my daughters to undergo FGM. I am sad that we, as the leaders of the community, have allowed this to happen for so long. Now I know that FGM is horrible and a violation of human rights.”

He plans to discuss the health effects of FGM with his immediate family (parents, neighbours, and initiates who are all involved in mentally, socially, and physically preparing girls for the cutting ceremonies-at least before the government outlawed FGM). Also, he would like to volunteer to programs that fight FGM at the grass-root level like HFAW.

“If I could turn back the clock, I would not push my wife to take my daughters for FGM. I regret  I allowing them to undergo the practice”.

Cultural practices can change without affecting cultural values. The rite of passage from a girl to womanhood can be marked and celebrated in alternative methods that neither harm nor degrade the value of the subject through platforms like seminars where girls learn the physical, emotional, and mental changes during the adolescent stage. Also, they learn what is expected of them as young and responsible members of society. The priority is to empower them to pursue life goals and achieve their dreams confidently.

“Every man who has benefitted from this program should take responsibility for ending FGM. It would be a shame, a big shame, to go back to our homes and do nothing about FGM. It is time to stop promising to end FGM. We are organizing and implementing end-FGM community programs right from this forum”.

(From right) Dr. Grace, former chief in Kebirigo, and Manae (receiving certificate showing he has completed the training)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The government, with the support of non-governmental organizations and international human rights bodies, supports formal education and health risks approaches in explaining how FGM is harmful. However, the measures require patience since locals still perceive them in the context of globalization and as lacking priority for communal values.

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I saved a Girl from FGM, years later she surprised me with a flat screen TV

Edward Otinga’s campaign against harmful practices that affect health like FGM started when he began field visits to the community in Nyamira, Kenya. He is a community health worker linked to the Nyamira Level 1 hospital.

It was a typical workday for Edward. He was conducting a field visit to follow-up on health cases to refer to Nyamira level 1 hospital. As he approached another home, he met a young girl. He says that the girl knew him since he was a regular visitor to the village. She expressed that she was worried because her family was planning an FGM ceremony for her. She was still in primary school then.

Female Genital Mutilation involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia of a girl. The government of Kenya banned the practice in 2011. However, some communities still practice FGM because of the cultural beliefs attached to the cut. Nyamira is occupied mainly by the Abagusii. In 2014, the Kenya Health Demographic Survey revealed that the prevalence of FGM in Nyamira is 84%. More alarming was the findings that other hot-spots for FGM had recorded a significant decline in FGM prevalence since 2008, except Nyamira and Kisii counties.

‘I told her not to accept such a thing. I promised to talk to her parents to abandon their plans. If they had not listened, I would have reported them to the authorities. I assured the girl that she would not undergo the practice under my watch.’

When a girl undergoes FGM, it is a sign that she is ready for marriage and children-bearing. It is because of the guidelines imposed on the girl after undergoing the cut. She is taught on the responsibilities of a wife and the general expectations of the community on her now that she is an adult. Such teachings justify the various previous researches that have connected FGM to other social problems in the region like early marriage and teenage pregnancy. Additionally, in 2014, Nyamira county was ranked 5th in Kenya based on the number of cases of reported teenage pregnancies.

‘I told the mother that I knew the plans of taking her daughter to be cut. I explained how this was a mistake that would destroy the health and future of her hard-working daughter. Next, I went to the father and explained the same. Initially, he was hesitant. However, after explaining the health complications experienced by girls who had undergone FGM that I had witnessed as a health professional, he listened and promised not to carry on with the plans. One week later, I went back home. I was happy to be informed that the girl was not cut.’

Nearly seven years later, Edward received a call at the hospital asking him to go to the reception because a lady had asked for him.

Edward during the HFAW training session in Nyamira Township

 

“She looked familiar, but I could not connect her face to the young and terrified girl who approached me during one of my community visits mission many years ago. She asked if I remembered the girl who asked him for help in convincing her parents not to take for FGM. That is when I remembered. She had grown into a jovial and confident lady. I felt happy that she was safe.”

She asked me to wait for her as she picks something she had left outside. She came back with a box wrapped as a gift and handed it to me. When I opened the box, it was a 21-inch TV”.

Edward says that he could not believe what was happening. For a long time, he had heard people say that good done always comes back to the individual in significant ways. He says that the saying came true when he saw how the lady he saved from FGM showed appreciation.

 “After appreciating her for the kind gesture, I asked her to carry on with urging other members from the community to shun FGM.”

Edward’s determination to promote the health of his community members paid off when a girl he protected from FGM completed her studies and even came back to reward him for his kindness. He is among the 50 participants who benefited from HFAW’s men’s training held in December, 2019. If each of us had Edward’s determination and sense of goodwill, FGM would end. For now, we can only hope that more of the likes of Edward will come out to defend girls who are at risk of FGM.

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3 Key Issues Highlighted during the ICPD25, Nairobi Summit

The International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) ended on 14th, November 2019. The event was a result of the revolutionary Programme of Action towards accessible and comprehensive reproductive healthcare, and prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases. One hundred and seventy-nine governments committed to implementing the action plan in 1994. Twenty-five years later, the Nairobi summit was held to accelerate the promises made twenty-five years ago.

The highlight of the summit, attended by over 7000 delegates  from all over the world, was when multinational organizations, private sector players, and donor agencies pledged to raise $8 billion to support reproductive health programmes for women and girls in developing countries for the next 10 years.  This followed a research finding by the UNFPA, University of Washington, Victoria University, and Avenir Health Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Intervention, which showed that efficient, accessible, and quality sexual and reproductive health are barriers to achieving sustainable development Growth.

Ending Harmful Practises like FGM is Possible, Imperative, and Urgent

The annual reviews of the ICPD action plan shows that ending harmful cultural practises like FGM, and child marriage, is ensuring peace and creating an environment for viable developments for women and girls. Therefore, there is a need for increased interventions related to changing the social norms and education. According to the UNFPA, the cost of the intervention will $37.4 billion. Additionally, it will cost $68.5 and $42 billion to provide quality family–planning options and end gender-based violence respectively.

Making Girls & Women’s health a priority

The summit highlighted the importance of investing in girls and women’s rights capabilities as a way of achieving sustainable development. Women and girls face challenges in accessing quality reproductive health services because of the embarrassment and stigma involved in discussing reproductive health matters. The challenges are limiting their ability to live freely.

Participants of ICPD25 marching in preparation of the summit

Achieving the 2030 Agenda

The 2030 agenda can be met if governments, donor agencies, and multinationals focus on achieving zero maternal deaths, zero unmet need for family-planning, and zero gender-based violence. The UNFAP, and the Johns Hopkins University in collaboration with Avenir Health, Victoria University, and University of Washington estimate that this will cost $264 billion.

Generally, the summit, organized in collaboration by the UNFPA, Kenya, and the government of Denmark, has provided the best platform to review progress made in quality and equitable access to reproductive healthcare services and prevention of sexually-transmitted diseases. It has ended by notably re-energized and renewed commitment to achieving sustainable development goals.  

 

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HFAW Annual Report 2018

Students From Pisgan School, Nyamira, Kenya

Download The HFAW Annual Report by Clicking Here   HFAW ANNUAL REPORT (2018)

 

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President Uhuru Kenyatta Drums Support for the End of FGM in Kenya

President Uhuru Kenyatta has promised that he will end FGM by 2022. Speaking during the signing of a memorandum of understanding by cultural and religious leaders from twenty counties which are identified as hotspots for FGM, the president promised that he is committed to a harmonious strategy to end FGM.

‘FGM is the worst form of Gender-Based violence. It is a retrogressive practice. We need to be a society that protects and respects women to protect our individual and national conscience”, said President Uhuru Kenyatta.

‘If you hear or see a chief or assistant chief presiding over a ceremony of mutilating girls, you should tell me. I promise to deal with him/her. I will do everything within my capacity including rallying the leaders of other regions to support the End of FGM”, he added. The promise comes after his commitment to end FGM during the Women Deliver Conference on gender equality and the well-being of women.

From right, President Uhuru Kenyatta and a fellow panellist during the Women Deliver Conference, June 2019, Photo: Courtesy

The 28TooMany organization estimates that at least 9.35 million girls have undergone FGM. The number accounts for 6% of the number of women who have been mutilated and violated globally.

“The President’s promise is ambitious. However, it is achievable”, Sadia Hussein, an anti-FGM activist working with the Dayaa Women Group.

Progress has been made in reducing the prevalence of FGM since the adoption of the Prohibition of the FGM Act 2011 . However, the process of eliminating FGM is still slow. Therefore, all eyes will be on Uhuru’s administration and anti-FGM organizations, networks, and movements to see how the zero rates in FGM will be achieved.

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A Kenyan doctor Seeks to keep FGM high and alive in Kenya-Where she is getting it wrong

 

A girl being held while undergoing FGM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Believe it or not, a female doctor in Kenya, who has practiced medicine for over 26 years, filed a petition supporting FGM  the very act that has adverse health effects on girls and women. Dr. Tatu is seeking the legalization of FGM for women above 18 years because they are adults hence can choose what happens to their bodies. The doctor believes that, just us some women decide to drink or smoke with full knowledge of the health and social consequences of the decisions, so should they have the freedom to choose to undergo FGM-or not.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting is the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia. The ritual is done to girls between 5 and 15 years. However, girls and women above this age group can also be subjected to FGM. Communities that practise FGM  include the Maasai (78%), Kuria (95%), Somali (94%), Gusii (85%). There have been cases of women hailing from communities that do not practice FGM/C, married in communities that practice FGM being forced to undergo the harmful ritual, lest they are divorced. The practice leads to severe bleeding, risk of haemorrhage, obstructed labor, and uterine infections. Further, there is research evidence showing a connection between a high prevalence of HIV and Fistula in areas where FGM is practiced.

“The case is already damaging. I have seen many discussions on social media on the same. Unfortunately, some people are nearly being swayed by the supporting argument because she is a doctor. However, I believe that there is no sane woman out here in her right mind who knows the consequences of FGM and would still willingly undergo the cut without coercion. I hope the testimonies of the many survivors of FGM and anti-FGM will help in showing the sad realities of FGM”, Tony Mwebia, an anti-FGM activist and founder of MenEndFGM.

Clearly, Tatu may not understand the underlying factors in the emergence and spread of FGM. Such knowledge would inform her that it is not a matter of choice-rather it entails freedom and independence, which the African girl does not know. FGM is a cultural belief and practice. Communities like that practice it believe that it makes a girl complete. Any girl who has not gone through the rite is considered incomplete hence attracts ridicule from other community members.

  Without the Law, no Girl or Woman Will be Empowered Enough to  Resist FGM

Kenya is among the countries that have outlawed FGM  through the enactment of the Anti-FGM Act of 2011. Anyone found culpable of procuring, arranging and assisting in FGM is subject to punishment of a jail-term and  fine. Admittedly, the law has been effective in creating awareness of the psychological, physical, and mental effects of FGM. However, it seems that it has led to the spread of medicalized FGM. It has emerged that rogue healthcare personnel are conducting FGM underground. Also, there is a new trend of girls being taken to the cut earlier before reaching five years.

FGM/C is done because of pressure from the community. The obligation to the community takes precedence over the needs and desires of an individual. Therefore, even if girls and women are given the freedom to choose if they wish to undergo FGM, a rite of passage, it is highly unlikely that the latter will choose to deal with the repercussions of denouncing the culture.

Notably, culture provides a strong framework for the well-being of the members of the society. It has been said, again and again, culture cannot be used as a basis to harm girls and women. Moreover, culture changes and adapts to the needs of the members of the society.

“A woman cannot resist undergoing FGM in a community that is still holding on the practice as a valuable tradition. In such a case, the woman needs protection from the law. Think about a woman married in a community that practices FGM. The mid-wives and mothers-in-law are after them, and sometimes it is done to them at that moment when they are so hopeless during birth. The law strengthens the ability of girls and women to protect themselves”, Leah Wandera,  anti-FGM activist and the acting CEO of Hope Foundation for African Women. 

WHO estimates that at least 200 million girls have undergone FGM. Additionally, nearly 2 million girls undergo the procedure each year. Research shows that the prevalence of FGM is significantly reducing among communities like the Maasai and Meru since the criminalization of FGM through the anti-FGM law in 2011. The law is the only thing Kenyan girls and women have been holding on to keep them safe from FGM. Do not touch the anti-FGM law.

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The Day of The African Child 2019

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Advocacy in Markets, road show and community walk

HFAW also sensitizes the community against FGM through market flees since the launch of its first popular

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Trainings for Health and Law enforcement Providers

Law enforcement and health providers deal with victims of GBV and FGM.

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Church and Advocacy

To eradicate FGM, a multi sectoral approach is required, HFAW engages the community and its leaders

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