Alternative rite of passage empowers girls to say no to FGM
Over 500 graduate in life-skills training that replaces harmful cultural practice that persists in many places despite ban
As Christmas day of 2018 approached, over 500 girls assembled in an open field at Sandai in Marigat, Baringo County. They were joined by hundreds of community members, local leaders and guests.
The girls, mostly teenagers but some as young as 11 years, listened keenly to the speeches. For most of the girls, this was the biggest ceremony they had ever witnessed. The sheer size of the crowd would have made many of them apprehensive. But they were not. Instead, they spoke confidently about their future and opposition to female genital cutting or mutilation (FGM). The graduating girls, are “anti-FGM champions”, empowered to be agents of social change in their communities.
The girls have been emboldened by a week-long life skills training camp.
The alternative rite of passage training is a symbolic process to mark the transition from childhood to womanhood without FGM, an outlawed practice that negatively affects the health of women and well-being of girls and women.
Aligned with national guidelines, the alternative rite of passage involves life skills education and efforts to mobilize the community to end FGM and other harmful cultural practices.
USAID Afya Uzazi works with County Governments and diverse partners to implement social change interventions to address practices such as FGM, early marriage, and sexual and gender-based violence. This is part of the project’s work to address gender issues that affect women’s access to health care.
Afya Uzazi supports activities to create awareness about sexual and reproductive health rights among girls and youth as well as the wider community.
Staff from the project participated in the week’s long activities in the alternative rite of passage. They teamed up with staff from the county and other partners to provide life skills education or the girls and in community mobilization.
The project also helped to organize the graduation ceremony, which was graced by the Baringo First Lady Mrs Ivy Kiptisa, her Isiolo counterpart Kuti Wato and other senior officials from the county.
Speaking after the ceremony, Baringo South Sub County Health Services Coordinator Mrs. Roselyn Leiro, said some communities in county continue to practice FGM covertly despite the practice being illegal.
“There are women who secretly put up their children through FGM, and early marriages so they can be recognized by the community as those upholding tradition … We say no to FGM and early marriages,” she said.
FGM comprises all procedures that involve altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons and is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women.
FGM has serious negative consequences on survivors. The practice is closely tied to marriage and survivors are often forced into child-marriages which hinders them from acquiring quality education, compromising their potential.
The County Government has partnered with Afya Uzazi and other partners on a sustained social and behavior change campaign to end FGM.
“We have incorporated community and religious leaders, elders, chiefs and even the circumcisers in our campaign to end FGM and the response has been positive,” said Mrs. Leiro.
On February 6th, Afya Uzazi will join the global community unites to commemorate the International Day of Zero-Tolerance Against Female Genital Mutilation.
Globally, it is estimated that at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone some form of FGM, according to the United Nations.
Girls 14 and younger represent 44 million of those who have been cut, with the highest prevalence of FGM among this age.
The 2014 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) estimated the national prevalence of FGM to be 21% among women age 15–49, down from 27% in the 2008/09 survey and 32 percent in the 2003 survey.
Some resources on the alternative rite of passage and work to end FGM: