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January 21, 2019

Anti-FGM group to lobby elders and boys in fight against gender-based violence

Maasai girls arrive for the start of social education against harmful practices such as FGM at Imbirikani Girls High School on April 21, 2016 /REUTERS
Maasai girls arrive for the start of social education against harmful practices such as FGM at Imbirikani Girls High School on April 21, 2016 /REUTERS

The anti-FGM board will involve elders and young boys in the fight against genital mutilation in northeastern Kenya for the practice to be eradicated by 2030.

Board chairperson Agnes Pareiyo expressed regret at a media briefing onTuesday that FGM is one of the worst forms of gender-based violence and human rights violations.

Statistics from the Demographic and Health Survey 2014 rate the national prevalence of FGM at 21 per cent.

Prevalence is highest among the Somali, Samburu, Kisii and Maasai communities at 94, 86, 84 and 78 per cent respectively.

The cultural practice is associated with either immediate or long-term health, psychological and physical complications of those who are cut.

The board acknowledges that aggressive advocacy by various partners has ensured a steady decrease in the practice, but much more needs to be done. Pareiyo told the media:

“We have to appreciate that FGM is a cultural practice in most of the areas it is being practiced. We therefore have to involve the elders because they are the custodians of that culture and tradition. That is where the problem is and unless we get the blessings of the elders, this war is not going anywhere.”

She said the practice in Northeast Kenya is more of a religious issue.

“The Muslim community requires a decree. What they need is a voice from their religious leaders.”

The chairperson reiterated that the Borana community from Isiolo have elders from Ethiopia, whom if consulted will simply issue a decree demanding that the practice be stopped.

The county is cosmopolitan in nature with a diversity of cultures. The dominant communities are the Borana, Somali, Samburu and Turkana.

“We have been reliably informed, the Borana elders if engaged will be enough. We will access them this year to dialogue and ensure they give a decree,” the chairperson added.

The report attributes the practice to cultural ceremonies but states that there is no pattern in terms of the seasons it is carried out

INVOLVE BOYS

The board also plans to involve young boys in the fight as they can influence the girls to either stop or continue with the cut. This is because they are the ones to marry them.

According to a report released by ActionAid in August last year, only the Turkana community in Isiolo do not practice FGM.

The report shows that more than 92 per cent of Samburu girls are circumcised as a rite of passage, out of whom 40 per cent are forced to drop out of school to get married.

“Samburu girls as young as six years must undergo the cut to be considered mature enough for marriage. Therefore, almost every Samburu girl is circumcised as mandatory rite of passage. This signifies a very high prevalence of FGM in the community,” the report reads.

The board was established in 2013 after enactment of the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act, 2011.

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