12 COUNTIES TARGETED

14,000 girls to get pads, underwear in anti-FGM initiative

Anti-FGM Board says when girls can't afford sanitary products, they opt to undergo FGM or marriage as a solution.

In Summary

• The 3,500 boxes with 12,000 bags of dignity kits each containing 16 items will be delivered to 12 high-risk counties. 

• On Monday, 10 chiefs and their assistants in the Kuria region were interdicted for abetting FGM.

Haithar Ahmed, Child Protection specialist Unicef Kenya (left), chairperson of the Anti-FGM Board Agnes Pareiyo and Bernadette Loloju, CEO Anti-FGM Board, display some of the items to be donated to 14,000 girls in 12 high-risk counties
ENDING FGM: Haithar Ahmed, Child Protection specialist Unicef Kenya (left), chairperson of the Anti-FGM Board Agnes Pareiyo and Bernadette Loloju, CEO Anti-FGM Board, display some of the items to be donated to 14,000 girls in 12 high-risk counties
Image: COURTESY

Unicef has partnered with the Anti-FGM Board to donate dignity kits to 14,000 girls in 12 high-risk counties.

The purpose of the donation is to reduce the risk of  child marriage and FGM among girls aged 10-17.

The 3,500 boxes with 12,000 bags of dignity kits each containing 16 items will be delivered to Wajir, Garissa, Kajiado, West Pokot, Marsabit, Isiolo, Narok, Laikipia, Tana River, Samburu, Kisii and Migori.

The items include tissue paper, 10 packets of disposable sanitary towels, soaps, solar lamps, a hand towel, five panties, slippers and petroleum jelly. Others are toothpaste, a kanga, T-shirts, an afro comb, a backpack and a mirror. 

Speaking during flagging off of the consignment in Nairobi, Anti-FGM Board chairperson Agnes Pareiyo said the items in the dignity kits are not given priority at the household level, leaving the girls at risk of early marriage and transactional sex in exchange for panties and pads. 

"The dignity kits provide much-needed relief to young girls during this Covid-19 pandemic, thus preserving the dignity, which is essential to maintaining self-esteem and confidence, and not opting to undergo FGM or seeing marriage as a solution," she said.

Unicef Kenya Child Protection specialist Haithar Ahmed said the bar and bathing soaps will aid handwashing and support the fight against Covid-19. 

"The solar lamp, sanitary pads and Unicef backpack will also help girls to continue schooling. The rest of the other items will support general welfare and enhance personal hygiene," he said.

Ahmed added that data from Unicef shows that 570,000 girls are at risk of undergoing FGM in the next 10 years.

"The identified girls are either in their homes, rescue centres or in boarding schools. Besides the kits, girls will be offered mentorship, life skills, and advice during the handing over of the dignity kits thus raising awareness levels of the parents and girls to reject FGM and child marriage," Ahmed said.

According to the Anti-FGM Board, there has been a gradual decline in FGM among women aged 15-49, from 38 per cent in 1998 to 21 per cent in 2014. 

"However, there is still high prevalence of FGM among certain communities and as the Kenya statistics indicate, FGM persists since it is deeply rooted in cultures of the communities that practice it," Pareiyo said. 

She said despite going out of their way to create awareness, the board is faced with challenges such as chiefs and their assistants aiding FGM within their communities. 

"On Monday, we were in the Kuria region where 10 chiefs and their assistants have been interdicted for abetting the practice. We call for such drastic measures from the Interior ministry to ensure the presidential directive is a reality," she said. 

The board recommended promoting alternative rites of passage in 20 counties regarded as FGM hotspots in the country. 

"ARP is proving to be an effective tool towards the abandoning of FGM as it maintains the other essential components that used to be observed during the graduation of girls after initiation," she said. 

These components include education on family life and women's roles, exchange of gifts, food and a public declaration. 

Edited by Henry Makori