Boost for FGM war as notorious circumciser downs tools

'Green' with smile - Girls excited during graduation after undergoing a week's training on alternative rite of passage at Kajuki in Tharaka Nithi County. They are among the 420 girls who graduated on December 17, 2022.

Photo credit: Alex Njeru | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Stela Mumbi,  who had ‘cut’ girls for several years, has vowed to quit the trade.
  • She confessed to having lived a miserable life for years because she was permanently hiding from government officials.
  • Together with her husband, they sponsored their granddaughters to join an alternative rite of passage training that saw 420 girls graduate.

The war on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) has received a boost in Tharaka Nithi County after a notorious traditional circumciser downed her tools.

Stela Mumbi from Mutino Location in Igambang’ombe Sub-county who had ‘cut’ girls for several years, on Monday made a public announcement that she had quit the illegal trade.

She spoke during a ceremony held at Kajuki Primary School and was received by the Kenya Anti-FGM Board Chief Executive Officer Bernadette Loloju.

During the event organized by St Peter's Lifeline, a non-governmental organization that champions girl-child empowerment in the region, Ms Mumbi, who was accompanied by her husband, Daniel Nyaga, said she decided to stop the outdated cultural practice after learning that it is not healthy and adds no value to the young girls.

She confessed to having lived a miserable life for many years because she was permanently hiding from government officials who pursued her, and that she narrowly escaped arrest several times.

“I want to announce that I have quit circumcising girls and from today, I have joined the fight against FGM and going forward, I will champion alternative rite of passage,” said Ms Mumbi.

She said though she earned from the illegal trade, she never enjoyed the fruits of her work because she permanently lived in fear for breaking the law.

Alternative rite

Mr Nyaga said his family had resolved to become agents of anti-FGM campaign, confirming that among the 420 girls who had been taken through ARP were his two granddaughters.

“To confirm that we have quitted FGM, we have sponsored our two granddaughters for this alternative rite of passage training,” he said.

He warned that he would report, to the authorities, anyone who visits their home to convince his wife to cut their daughters.

Ms Loloju lauded Ms Mumbi for the decision and appreciated Igambang’ombe Deputy County Commissioner Julius Too for his role in the fight against FGM in the region.

She urged Ms Mumbi and her husband to be champions of change and preach the gospel to the rest of the villagers still holding onto the dangerous cultural practice.

“We want you now to be the Anti-FGM ambassador in this region because you have changed and embraced alternative rite of passage,” said Ms Loloju.

The official said the Kenya Demographics Health Survey 2014, shows the FGM rates stood at 49 per cent in Tharaka Constituency against the national average of 21 per cent.

She, however, stated that positive milestones had been achieved across the country, through the target set by former President Uhuru Kenyatta to end FGM by this year had not been achieved.

St Peter’s Lifeline Director Veronica Nyaga, said the residents were slowly embracing ARP and that is why the number of girls who attended the one-week seminar this year is big.

Anti-FGM policy

Tharaka Nithi County Chief Officer in charge of Gender, Children and Social Services Kelly Rwigi and Mariani MCA Anita Mbae, said the devolved unit last year came up with an anti-FGM policy, which once implemented, will greatly enhance the war on gender-based violence.

“The county government has reinforced the national gender-based violence laws with a policy and our target is to end the illegal practice in this region, as soon as possible,” said Ms Rwigi.

Mr Too said the administration and the other stakeholders will ensure no girl is cut during the long festive season.

The leaders pointed out that there was a need to involve men in the fight against FGM, and come up with empowerment programs for boys.

Ms Mbae said boys had been neglected and left to grow on their own as both government and other stakeholders concentrate on girls.