Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation
Partner | Loreto Eastern Africa Province
Location | Kajiado, Kenya
This project aims to create a community free from Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), free from the fear of curses, myths and taboos, enabling young women to celebrate and enjoy a full life.
The Loreto Sisters initiated the project to eliminate FGM in 1998 in response to information from communities and alarming reports in the national media. Sr Ephigenia Gachiri ibvm has dedicated her life to ending the barbaric practise in Kenya, where it is estimated that approximately one in every four women and girls aged 15 to 49 has endured FGM. The latest estimates show that four million girls and women are at risk of mutilation every year, approximately 8,000 girls per day, a practice that violates the basic human rights of women and girls.
The project currently operates in over eight constituencies of the Rift Valley in Kenya with an established network of field officers who assist in coordinating the project, its progress and milestones.
One of the significant issues in eradicating FGM is the level of cultural importance placed on this rite of passage, which is believed to prepare a girl for motherhood. To combat this, the project takes a holistic approach. Teachers, community gatekeepers, young people, local chiefs and lawmakers are engaged to ensure FGM is addressed as a community-wide problem rather than a women and girls’ only problem.
Most victims are cut by traditional villagers, including birth attendants in the home. However, girls are now increasingly being cut by health care providers to reduce complications – a practice known as the medicalisation of FGM. The project aims to increase the number of local trainers to reach more communities at the grassroots level. The focus area is Kajiado county, where the Maasai ethnic group often takes girls to Tanzania to be cut.
Over the past year, Sr Ephigenia has witnessed some disturbing trends in FGM. Because of the financial stress resulting from the pandemic, Sr Ephigenia has reported that increased numbers of girls are being subjected to FGM to better their chances of marriage.
The coming elections have also placed further pressure on families to get women circumcised. A recent victim of FGM was a chief’s wife, whose husband was not permitted to hold a leadership role in the community without his wife being cut.
Ultimately this project seeks to reduce the number of people falling victim to FGM through:
- Improved access to and awareness of the basic human rights of girls and women.
- Increased community acceptance and empowerment of women and girls who have not undergone FGM, a critical issue in the fight against FGM.
- Better protection and safeguarding of children in the communities.
- Higher numbers of people reporting on child abuse/FGM practice.
- Community awareness on the harmful effects of FGM and the benefit of an alternative rite of passage to adulthood.
The activities are customised to suit a particular audience and include:
- Train 320 girls and boys on an alternative rite of passage from childhood to adulthood.
- Conduct 10 one day school seminars for boys and girls on child safeguarding and rights.
- Train 120 community leaders, officers from the ministry of education, local chiefs and police.
- Hold one child protection seminar for 40 people.
- Hold two train the trainer sessions for 80 people.