HUMAN RIGHTS

EMMANUEL MWITA: Engage elders to protect Kuria girls from FGM

Efforts to meet these elders have often been met with challenges

In Summary

• The myths and misconceptions around FGM have been passed from generation to generation.

• These beliefs have contributed to the 86 per cent FGM prevalence in Kuria community, according to Kenya Demographic Health Survey 2014.

Participants during celebrations to mark this year's International Day of the Girl Child held at Tabaka in South Mugirango constituency in Kisii County on Tuesday.Photo Benson Nyagesiba
Participants during celebrations to mark this year's International Day of the Girl Child held at Tabaka in South Mugirango constituency in Kisii County on Tuesday.Photo Benson Nyagesiba

Female genital mutilation is a deeply rooted cultural practice among the Kuria community, and this year’s ceremonies are already underway.

As the world commemorates the Day of the Girl Child on October 11, girls in my community in Migori county have never been more vulnerable to violation through FGM, and something urgently needs to change.

The myths and misconceptions around FGM have been passed from generation to generation. These beliefs have contributed to the 86 per cent FGM prevalence in Kuria community, according to Kenya Demographic Health Survey 2014.

These retrogressive beliefs have been passed to generations by the traditional cultural elders, and it is high time we started targeting these male head figures if we are to save the future of our girls.

The council of the traditional cultural elders is described in the community as the custodian of the culture. Towards the circumcision period, the community elders of the community meet to declare the start of the ceremonies. This has ensured continuity of the retrogressive act, which puts about 3,000 vulnerable girls at risk of undergoing FGM annually.

Some of the vulnerable girls who are at home on school holidays have started reporting at rescue centres available in the region for their safety during this period.

It is, therefore, prudent to extensively and meaningfully engage the Kuria council of elders to lay down strategies, make agreements and commitments to protect the rights of the girls in the community by declaring to end FGM in the community.

Efforts to meet these elders have often been met with challenges including, people impersonating elders showing up for meetings, false commitments by the elders and threats of witchcraft from some of the cultural elders.

This has been attributed also to the fact that the elders use the circumcision ceremonies as a source of income since each of the clients is required to pay Sh1, 000 for the cut.

State and non-state actors should continue to focus more efforts and strategies to reach out to these cultural elders who are a crucial decision making organ in the community in regards to practice of FGM in the community.

This will go a long way to accelerating efforts to end FGM in the community and the country by 2022, as recently declared by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Mwita is a Migori-based Youth Advocate with the Network for Adolescent and Youth of Africa