Innovative strategies amplifying anti-FGM voices
What you need to know:
- State and non-state actors involved are leaving nothing to chance as they continue with the implementation of the national campaign against the harmful tradition.
- Among the new strategies are Campus Dialogues, the brainchild of Men End FGM Foundation, an organisation that lobbies stakeholders to prevail upon men to join the fight.
The government’s bid to eradicate female genital mutilation (FGM) by the end of this year has seen the innovation of new strategies to realise this ambitious goal.
State and non-state actors involved are leaving nothing to chance as they continue with the implementation of the national campaign against the harmful tradition.
Among the new strategies are Campus Dialogues, the brainchild of Men End FGM Foundation, an organisation that lobbies stakeholders to prevail upon men to join the fight. Dubbed #TubongeNaComrades, the campus dialogues are meant to create awareness among students of the harmful effects of FGM.
The inaugural #TobongeNaComrades took place at the University of Embu in October. Students were educated on FGM types, prevalence, offences under the Anti-FGM Act 2011, as well as its effects on girls and women, including enjoyment of marital relationships.
Apart from targeting the university students, the Campus Dialogues campaign is also tailored towards students in technical and vocational education and training institutions.
Peter Kemei, the head of operations at the Men End FGM Foundation, told Nation.Africa that the campus dialogues would take place across all the 22 FGM hotspot counties. He said they chose to engage university students from these regions as they are influential and would easily understand the dangers of FGM in their communities.
“The students command a lot of respect and influence in their respective communities, which is very instrumental in helping win the war on FGM and sexual and gender-based violence. They can make good champions as they will have the knowledge of the dangers of subjecting the girls to the cut,” said Mr Kemei.
He revealed that plans are underway to hold campus dialogues in other universities that fall under the 22 FGM hotspot counties, with Garissa University being next on the line.
Pasha mobile app
The month of October also saw the launch of a mobile app to help in the fight. Pasha assists in reporting FGM cases at the click of a button. It enables information exchange with government agencies, including the Anti-FGM Board and other duty bearers, in text or voice messaging.
It also has an option for those giving information to remain anonymous and picking one’s location. The information is then received by authorities who then respond accordingly depending on the alert received. The app was developed by Unicef in conjunction with the Anti-FGM Board. Already, it is being used in Kuria and Samburu, which are some of the areas with high FGM prevalence in the country.
Anti-FGM Board CEO Bernadette Loloju, speaking recently when she launched the app in Samburu County, termed it a game changer in the reporting of FGM incidents.
“I am urging the locals to put the app to good use to save girls in distress. Please, also educate other people around you on this app. Our girls now face the triple threat of teenage pregnancies, HIV/Aids and harmful practices like FGM, which must be addressed,” she said.
The HeforShe Initiative, a campaign engaging boys and men in protecting their sisters and daughters from harmful cultural practices like FGM, has also gained prominence. Many state and non-state actors are increasingly using the HeforShe campaign to accelerate the campaign and have maximum results.
One such organisation is the Mary Immaculate Girl Child Education Rescue Centre in Suguta Mar-Mar, Samburu County. Sr Teresa Nduku, a nun from the Immaculate Sisters of Nyeri, who is in charge of the centre, told Nation.Africa that the programme, launched in January, is aimed at empowering boys and young men (morans) to fight harmful traditions.
Sr Nduku revealed that so far they have brought on board 120 boys from neighbouring schools. “We want the boys to learn early that it is wrong to subject a girl to a cut and marry her off while she is still a child."
The nun said that once they get funds, they will roll out the initiative across the county. The HeForShe is a solidarity campaign for the advancement of gender equality, initiated by the UN in 2014.
The global campaign seeks to marshal men’s support for women and girls to achieve equality by encouraging all genders to be agents of change and take action against negative stereotypes and behaviours.
Elders as change agents
Converting elders into anti-FGM champions has also been one of the key strategies. Already, elders in West-Pokot, Marsabit, Samburu, Elegeyo-Marakwet and Narok counties have denounced FGM, terming it retrogressive, and joined hands with the government to eradicate the vice.
The most notable is the conversion of Samburu elders, who, in March last year, agreed to end FGM and child marriage by signing what was called the Kisima Declaration. The declaration was witnessed by former President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The elders were drawn from the six sacred mountains of Samburu to show their commitment to fighting the vice, they lifted a cultural curse usually imposed on girls who have not undergone the cut. The curse has been one of the drivers of FGM in the community as girls opt to undergo the cut for social acceptance.
The move means girls who had not been cut can now be accepted and can participate in cultural celebrations, activities and other rites.
The declaration took place at Kisima grounds, which is a sacred site among the Samburu. “We must respect culture and in doing so we must also evaluate the practices that harm girls and embrace those that are of value.We must adopt alternative rites of passage that teach respect for elders and life values without causing girls harm,” said Mr Kenyatta.
Elders are the custodian of the culture and give direction on the practices to be upheld. They are, therefore, considered crucial in the fight against FGM and other harmful practices.
Targeting the cutters and turning them into anti-FGM crusaders has also gained momentum. The campaign being spearheaded by the Ministry of Public Service and Gender entails prevailing upon the cutters to abandon the illegal practice.
Reformed cutters are supported through the National Government Affirmative Action Fund (NGAAF) to venture into other economic activities. The government also uses them as anti-FGM champions in their communities. So far, a number of cutters in Tana River, Garissa and Marsabit counties have abandoned the trade.
Religious leaders have not been left behind. Last year, the Anti-FGM Board lifted the lid off the agency’s resolve to work with church leaders in fighting the menace.
Former Anti-FGM Board chairperson Agnes Pareiyo noted that religious leaders are critical to the FGM fight as they interact with many members of society and are highly respected.
Ms Pareiyo made the remarks during a meeting of religious leaders at Ole Ntimama Stadium in Narok in November last year. She said the clerics would be tasked with preaching the dangers of circumcising girls.
Boda boda riders
Boda boda operators in the hotspot counties have also been roped in the campaign. They are being trained to become change agents and anti-FGM champions by leading rescue efforts for girls in distress or vulnerable to the cut.
Some of the operators have been trained in FGM effects, laws and related offences and penalties. Being famous for their quick mobilisation at the grassroots, the riders promptly rescue girls at risk and report cases to the authorities.