Kenya: County Officials Decry Rise in GBV, FGM, Teen Pregnancy

21 October 2020

A total of 311 teenage pregnancy cases have been recorded in Tharaka Nithi County since closure of schools following the Covid-19 outbreak.

Speaking during Mashujaa Day celebrations at Chuka Town Garden, County Commissioner Beverly Opwora said 35 cases of gender-based violence (GBV) have also been reported during the period.

Ms Opwora also noted that some residents are still practicing Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) despite efforts by government and non-governmental organisations to eradicate the retrogressive cultural practice.

"Our young girls have suffered a huge blow during the Covid-19 period because several have been impregnated while others have undergone the 'cut'," said Ms Opwora.

Council of Governors

The official lauded the Council of Governors (CoG) and President Uhuru Kenyatta for coming up with initiatives aimed at boosting the fight against FGM and GBV in the country.

She said through the collaborations of the Presidency and CoG, counties have launched gender sector working groups and anti-FGM committees to scale up the fight against the vices.

The county commissioner warned that the government will not tolerate cultural practices that have negative effects.

Speaking during the launch of the two initiatives at Chuka University last week, Ms Millicent Mugana, a nominated member of Tharaka Nithi County Assembly representing gender, said victory against FGM and GBV will be a reliever to women and girls in the country.

Advocates of change

"FGM has exposed young girls and women to great suffering and some have even died as a result," said Ms Mugana.

Ms Kelly Rwigi, founder of Enlightened Generation International, an organisation that deals with gender issues said the county is among the 22 counties listed by the government as FGM hot spots.

She urged residents to be advocates of change by reporting to the authority any tip-off on planned 'cut'.

"Relevant government institutions including police, administration and the Judiciary must take serious action against perpetrators of FGM and GBV if the country is to eradicate the vices," said Ms Rwigi.

Wajir FGM

In Wajir, the county commissioner Mr Jacob Narengo expressed concern over the rising cases of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the county.

The cases are partly attributed to the closure of schools following Covid-19 outbreak earlier in the year. A recent report from the county children's department noted that at least 110 girls below the age of 18 had undergone the cut since June.

Addressing residents on Tuesday during Mashujaa Day celebrations, the county administrator raised an alarm over increased FGM cases, warning circumcisers of dire consequences.

"We are witnessing a sudden rise in FGM cases in Wajir County, which is being performed by some elderly women; and we are going to upscale our crackdown against them," he said.

FGM hotspot

Mr Narengo said they had profiled the circumcisers.

"We know them by their sub-location and villages, and we want to warn all those practicing FGM in Wajir County that their days are numbered," he added.

He said they will engage the public to find alternative ways for the circumcisers to earn a living. Wajir County is one of the FGM hotspots in the country.

The World Health Organization estimates that more than three million girls are at risk of FGM annually.

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