“We are no longer working to reduce Female Genital Mutilation but, towards eradicating the practice,” says County Commissioner for Migori.
Female genital mutilation, or FGM, is globally documented as a violation of human rights. Over 200 million girls worldwide are at risk of undergoing this harmful practice, the majority being under the age of 15. In Kenya, the Kuria community in Migori county has the highest rates of prevalence of FGM.
“I am a Luhya woman who has been married in the Kuria community for over 30 years,” said Selina Sikoro. “I am a grandmother, and my daughters are married here. It is sad that every time there is circumcision, we must hide in the chief’s home for fear of forceful FGM.”
The institution of elders is highly respected within the Kuria Community. The community believes that they hold mythical powers, and their word is law. It is the elders who prescribe when circumcision is taking place and coordinate FGM. At county level, the county government must work with the elders and grassroot organizations to challenge the social norms and behaviors that drive FGM.
USAID’s Tusameheane Tujenge Nchi (Lets forgive and build the Nation together) initiative supported grassroot dialogue by engaging with Kuria community Chiefs, Ministry of Health officials, county and sub-county representatives, religious leaders and elected cultural leaders representing the four Kuria community clans.
The inclusive and participatory dialogue topics included the effects of FGM on the health of girls and women, effects of FGM on community peace and security, psychosocial support for survivors of FGM, rescue of girls during FGM, mediation, alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, gender and human rights mainstreaming in peacebuilding.
Following the grassroots dialogues, cultural leaders acknowledged that FGM is a retrogressive cultural practice that is detrimental to the progress of the community. This is because during the FGM season, there is an increase in cases of domestic violence, broken families and some girls escape. USAID’s continued support to eradication of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) activism and advocacy continues to be amplified using multi stakeholder approaches. Engagements and sensitization supported by Kuria cultural elders have given an undertaking to visit their shrines, consult their ‘gods’ and make pronouncements denouncing FGM.
In addition to facilitating elders’ meetings and engagements, the Initiative has trained community health volunteers to offer psychosocial support to survivors of SGBV, especially those who are recovering from the effects of the practice. “Eradicating FGM and continued participatory community engagement at grassroot level can save thousands of young adolescent girl’s future”, says Selina Sikoro. “Eradication of FGM would allow me and thousands of other women and girls to live in peace”.