Kenya: Isiolo Women Take Lead to Banish FGM

10 August 2020

Parents secretly taking their girls to Archers Post in Samburu East for the cut at Sh8,000

When schools were indefinitely shut down in mid-March following the outbreak of Coronavirus in the country, parents had an uphill task ahead of assuming the teachers role and providing some amenities that learners were getting while in school.

With thousands of Kenyans having lost their jobs and businesses shut down, citizens have been struggling to provide for their families due to the biting effects of the disease that continues to wreak havoc across the globe.

Parents and caregivers are now forced to put in extra work to feed their children, who have now been at home for more than four months leaving the learners with no one to take care of them which puts them at risk of being exposed to drug and substance abuse, early marriages and outdated practices.

MONITOR CHILDREN

The pandemic has made it almost impossible for parents to monitor their children movement and who they interact with when they are away for work which could expose them to bad company, cut short their education and ruin their future dreams.

Aware that girls and women are the most vulnerable to gender-based violence following the partial lockdown, a group of 25 women in Isiolo County volunteered to embark on mass campaign to ensure parents protect their girls from harmful practices such as Female Genital Mutilation.

Somali Self-Help Group chaired by Fani Mohammud has been visiting the remote villages in the vast county educating parents on the need to abandon the 'cut', monitor their children movement and agitate for women's rights.

Unlike before, when they used to be supplied with sanitary pads in school, the girls especially those from poor families have no regular supplies and could get lured into evil activities.

FORCED FGM

The women, during recent interview with the Nation, said they volunteered to embark on the course due to increasing cases of parents in the county forcibly subjecting their girls to FGM.

They lamented that the war on FGM was being derailed by men who are not willing to abandon the barbaric practices and embrace those that bring cohesion among communities.

"We decided to start the mass sensitization after realising that girls who have been at home due to Covid-19, were at high risk of being exposed to FGM and other harmful outdated practices," said Ms Fani.

The practice has been linked to cases of teenage pregnancies and forced early marriages with officials previously lamenting over growing number of girls dropping out of school.

LOCAL ADMINISTRATION

With the group's heightened campaign especially in Bulapesa, Wabera and Burat wards, most parents have been secretly taking their girls to Archers Post in Samburu East for the cut that now costs at least Sh8,000.

Wearing branded T-shirt, 'Tukomeshe Ukeketaji' for 'Let's Stop FGM', the women have been visiting homes and working with local administrators in reporting incidences to police for action against perpetrators.

They claimed that quite a number of girls were sleeping with young men to access sanitary pads as their parents could not afford the provisions on regular basis.

Ms Leila Abdi, a member, said women have a great role to play in ensuring their girls are not subjected to any harmful practice and early marriages.

She said, while many women feared exposing their husbands for marrying off their daughters at early age, the communal justice system known as maslaha was a major impediment to the fight.

"We are appealing to women out there not to remain silent but speak against FGM," said Ms Abdi.

POVERTY

Past research shows that many parents rarely report sexual offences against their girls for fear of embarrassing their families. Parents and caregivers, on such occasions, receive money from suspects for fear of losing cases in court due to poverty.

They cited logistical challenges and financial constraints in undertaking their work and appealed to various players to join hands in the fight.

The women decried lack of political goodwill and support from various stakeholders in their work to ensure that the practice is completely eliminated.

They appealed to Governor Mohamed Kuti-led administration to increase allocations towards youths and women empowerment to help them engage in income generating projects for improved livelihoods.

"Courts must also ensure punitive measures against those arraigned for carrying out FGM in efforts to tame the vice," appealed Ms Fani.

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