• Enrolment of girls in lower primary is higher than boys but their numbers decline in upper primary and secondary school.
• After the cut, girls are secluded and taught life lessons at the expense of education.
It is largely believed that Meru women do not undergo FGM, but the reality on the ground is different, a woman leader has said.
County Maendeleo ya Wanawake chairperson Mary Kanana said the number of female genital mutilation cases, among other women's rights violation, is high.
She said many women and girls in rural and urban areas are nursing the effects of various forms of abuse, discrimination and inhuman treatments.
Kanana said they suffer abuse even at the hands of those people entrusted with their protection.
Speaking on behalf of other women leaders, she said much is needed to be done to protect girls and women so they can enjoy life.
Girls in Tigania, Igembe and Imenti subcounties are forced or lured into undergoing FGM and early marriage by parents, guardians and close relatives, Kanana said.
The women leaders said after the ordeal, girls are kept in seclusion and taught how to behave like adults, poisoning their minds to the extent that they no longer find a reason to pursue education.
Kanana, who is also a human rights crusader, said some perpetrators even coerce married women into undergoing FGM without fear of repercussion. They are well known and protected by influential law enforcers, she said.
She said although enrolment of girls in most public schools is relatively higher than boys in the lower classes, their numbers decrease in upper primary and secondary school.
“This community’s continual support of detrimental cultural practices has resulted in low education standards due to high dropout rates in the affected areas and the county at large,” Kanana said.
She was, however, optimistic that all is not lost, saying there is room for relevant players to take a deliberate move towards changing the current narrative.
Kanana called for concerted efforts among like-minded partners to organise community dialogue to enhance awareness of the harmful effects of FGM, among other vices.
She said Maendeleo ya Wanawake leaders had taken the lead in 11 subcounties to carry out a village sensitisation programme.
Kanana cited financial limitations as the main factor hindering the organisation from bringing more people on board in the fight against retrogressive social and cultural practices.
She urged the national and county governments to allocate enough resources to facilitate the formulation of programmes to increase male involvement in eliminating harmful practices.
“Men have a crucial role in protecting women and girls against any form of abuse since they are part of their life at the family, school and community levels,” Kanana said.
She said men are better placed to denounce the archaic concept that FGM is mandatory for a girl to be considered an adult.
Kanana pledged to mobilise support from both levels of government as well as individual well-wishers to establish rescue and rehabilitation institutions for victims of abuse.
Men and boys should not be assumed to be safe from some of the vices in the community, hence, the need to have support systems in place to take care of their needs as well, she said.
The rights crusader said cases of men and boys being victims of sexual abuse and physical assault at the domestic and community level have increased.
“We all have a responsibility as leaders to guard our people against any form of human rights and dignity violation against either gender,” Kanana said. She urged men not to shy away from reporting cases of abuse against them
“Convinced at an early age that it was an abomination for a man to shout out for help when getting a beating in the hands of a woman, many men and boys, especially in the rural areas, would prefer to remain silent and continue enduring any form of abuse, discrimination and mistreatment,” the leader said.