PREVENT HARMFUL PRACTICES

Bungoma elders trained on GBV ahead of circumcision season

These educational sessions are facilitated by the Kenya-Finland Bilateral GBV programme

In Summary

• These communities, known for their traditional rites of passage, acknowledge the prevalence of gender-based violence surrounding the ritual.

• The circumcision ceremonies for the Batura and Bukusu communities occur in August, while that of the Sabaot community happen in December of every even year.

Bukusu Council of Elders chairman Richard Walukano
Bukusu Council of Elders chairman Richard Walukano
Image: TONY WAFULA
Ndiwa Chemosit
Ndiwa Chemosit
Image: TONY WAFULA

A group of elders from Saboat, Bukusu and Batura communities in Bungoma county has been briefed in preparation for this year's circumcision ceremony.

These communities, known for their traditional rites of passage, acknowledge the prevalence of gender-based violence surrounding the ritual.

The circumcision ceremonies for the Batura and Bukusu communities occur in August, while that of the Sabaot community happen in December of every even year.

These educational sessions are facilitated by Kenya- Finland Bilateral GBV programme with partnership with the Kenya Red Cross Society Bungoma and the county government of Bungoma, to diminish and prevent instances of GBV within these communities.

According to the 2022 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS) report, Bungoma county had the highest rate of GBV cases, accounting for 62 per cent of reported incidents.

The KDHS report also highlights that 34 per cent of women in Kenya have encountered physical violence since age 15, compared to 27 per cent of men.

Bukusu Council of Elders chairman Richard Walukano commended the collaborative efforts of the Kenya-Finland Bilateral programme, the Kenya Red Cross Society, the Bungoma government and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Finland to put an end to GBV.

These entities have organised forums to address teenage pregnancy and GBV prevention in the community.

Walukano emphasised the vulnerability of young girls from these communities to pregnancy risks if not sensitised early.

He cautioned against their participation in such ceremonies due to the associated threats of teenage pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections and HIV-Aids.

Walukano faulted the content of traditional circumcision ceremony songs, suggesting they often convey harmful messages to the youth, contributing to GBV.

He said during traditional rites, youths engage in risky behaviours that have long-term consequences.

"We aim for a different approach this year and that is why we've initiated early interventions. We urge parents to refrain from involving young girls in these ceremonies due to the risks of teenage pregnancies, STIs and HIV-Aids," Walukano said.

Ndiwa Chemosit, the chairman of the Supreme Council of Elders in Mt Elgon (Bungoma county) and Trans Nzoia county, said in the Sabaot community, girls undergo female genital mutilation alongside boys circumcision.

He highlighted the adverse effects faced by women who undergo FGM, including childbirth complications and fistula.

Through the Kenya-Finland Bilateral GBV programme, the Sabaot community has been sensitised to the detrimental effects of FGM, with elders now advocating against its practice.

Chemosit said there is need for positive messaging and education during such events.

"In the past, our songs served to uplift, praise and impart valuable lessons. Nowadays, circumcision ceremonies have devolved into platforms for misconduct," he said.

Batura Council of Elders chairman Godfrey Sikuku stressed the necessity of cultural adaptation to combat GBV effectively.

Council of elders during the gender-based violence and teenage pregnancy sensitisation meeting.
Council of elders during the gender-based violence and teenage pregnancy sensitisation meeting.
Image: TONY WAFULA
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