Elders, circumcisers in hotspot counties join campaign to end FGM

Abdi Hassan, the community king of the Wardey, and one of the vocal anti-FGM Council of Elders campaigners during an interview with Nation early this month. Most elders now support State effort to end FGM by 2022.

Photo credit: Wambui Kurema | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • One of government's campaign strategies to end FGM has been to rope in elders and circumcisers in the hotspot counties.
  • Elders in West-Pokot and Marsabit counties have denounced FGM.
  • In August, Marakwet cultural leader Mr Chelang’a Cheptoo declared their commitment to end the vice.
  • In Narok County, Maasai Council of Elders also in September, said FGM has been overtaken by time.
  • Borana Council of Elders have also renounced the practice terming as illegal.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, in November last year, issued a directive to government officials to ensure Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is eradicated in the country by 2022.

This was followed by the launch of the National Policy on Abandonment of FGM, which puts cultural, religious leaders and elders from 22 FGM hotspot counties as key stakeholders to partner with the government towards achieving the goal.

The ministries of Public Service and Gender, Interior and Health and other agencies like the Anti-FGM Board were tasked with spearheading the campaign.

One of the campaign’s strategy has been to rope in elders and circumcisers in the hotspot counties. And now elders in West-Pokot and Marsabit counties have denounced FGM terming it retrogressive. They have vowed to support the government in its campaign.

Council of Elders

In August, Marakwet cultural leader Mr Chelang’a Cheptoo declared their commitment to end the vice, adding they will work with the government to make it a reality.

In Narok County, Maasai Council of Elders also in September, said FGM has been overtaken by time and proved to harm women and girls. Last week, the Borana Council of Elders locally known as Guma Gayo also renounced the practice terming as illegal.

Public Service and Gender CAS Rachel Shebesh hailed the declaration by the Borana elders noting that it was long overdue.

Ms Shebesh urged the community to be one of the first among the practicing communities to end the practice by 2022. She asked chiefs to enforce the law firmly.

Religious leaders

Anti-FGM CEO Bernadette Loloju, said men and elders as custodian of the culture, should give direction towards ending negative practices like FGM as Borana elders had done.

“Men, as heads of families, need to be actively engaged in ending FGM,” said Ms Loloju.

During the launch of the National Policy on Abandonment of FGM in November 2019, cultural and religious leaders and elders from hotspot counties, pledged to partner with the government towards eradicating the outlawed practice.

Josephat Murangiri, the Secretary-General of Njuri Ncheke in Meru who read the elders’ declaration, said they are committed to see the vice completely eradicated in the next three years.

“We appreciate the government’s efforts to end FGM through creating and implementing progressive policies, legislative frameworks and programs towards its eradication,” said Mr Murangiri.

Promote education

The elders committed to work with both the national and county governments and other stakeholders in creating awareness within their communities on the need to promote education and the wellbeing of the girl child.

The government has also been targeting female circumcisers in its anti-FGM campaign.

Ms Shebesh has been leading the campaign to prevail upon circumcisers to abandon the illegal practice, a move that has seen several abandon it.

Already, a number of circumcisers in Garissa, Tana River and Wajir counties have abandoned the vice.

Ms Galina Gurre a circumciser from Garissa, for example, downed her tools of trade and handed them over to the Gender ministry, pledging to be an anti-FGM crusader in her locality, during a recent meeting attended by Ms Shebesh.

She is among the people the government will use as anti-FGM champions in their respective communities.

FGM survivors

Speaking in Tana River County during an anti-FGM awareness tour recently, the Gender CAS said the government would link circumcisers to alternative sources of income.

 “Ending FGM is very important to the wellbeing of girls and women not just because it’s the law – the scars left after the act is committed are lifelong and women live with the trauma forever,” said Ms Shebesh.

And as the campaign targeting the elders and circumcisers goes full throttle, the government is also targeting FGM survivors to be part of the campaign teams. It opines that survivors are crucial since it will be easy for them to prevail upon the girls to say no to the outlawed rite.

Ms Loloju said it is time for survivors to share their stories of pain and suffering to create awareness.

“The survivors are best placed to tell the story because they know where the shoe pinches most. We cannot keep silent anymore,” she said.



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