January 2019; Narok County Commissioner shook the nerves of the anti FGM movement in Kenya by proposing mandatory pregnancy and FGM testing. Within no time everyone was up in arms condemning the move as a gross violation of human rights, I beg not to get into this discussion as I feel his intentions are good and he has done great previously in the fight against FGM but he needs to consult and engage more with stakeholders on this.
In my view Natembea should not be bashed though like he committed adultery or treason. The energy generated by Natembea’s move should be harnessed to come up with long lasting solutions in the fight against FGM. I saw Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) speak about FGM in a very long time, the fight against FGM made it to Newspaper headlines and Prime time TV News. He simply awakened the sleeping giants in the fight against FGM and sparked a Nationwide conversation.
Majority will concur with me in Kenya such happenings create a wave of reactionary actions that eventually fade away with time. My advice would be to bring these giants and stakeholders together soon before the fire is gone. The cutting season has just ended; allow me to say there was massive cutting in some communities in Kenya. Don’t get me wrong I mean many girls were cut. This does not mean the activists and NGO’s did not do their work to sensitize the communities but the law implementing agencies failed in their work
I spent my Christmas holiday in Kuria a community found in Migori County in Kenya. They are lovely Bantu community, with farming as their main economic activity. They also have unique dance moves which entails shaking the head, shoulders and jumping. Here in December 2018 the community sang and danced in broad day light as they took the girls for the cut in total disregard of the law. Mark my words not one or two girls but hundreds of girls were cut. How on earth can you tell me the government is serious in the implementation of the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act, when in 21st Century community members are allowed to sing and dance in broad day light with cut girls. I feel there is no proper coordination between the Chiefs, the Police, Office of The Director of Public Prosecutions (ODDP) anti FGM Unit, Judiciary, Anti FGM board and the Department of Children Services.
“It is like the community showed us the middle finger and went on to cut the girls, I feel disappointed but we will keep soldiering on, though I still feel let down by the authorities that just watched as all the cutting was going on” an NGO worker in Kuria told me.
“I was standing by the road talking with the Assistant County Commissioner who was sitting in his vehicle with his driver, the cut girls just passed in front of us and he did not say anything, in fact they also forced boys who had been circumcised in hospital to undergo circumcision the second time” Said an Activist from Kuria.
(Those who follow me on Twitter can surely remember this alert! https://twitter.com/TonyMwebia/status/1068066681585573889 )
In Tharaka Nithi County things were not different girls were being cut in significant numbers. One parent was sentenced to a jail term of 6 years for subjecting her twin daughters to FGM https://www.nation.co.ke/counties/tharaka-nithi/Court-jails-woman-who-forced-FGM-on-her-daughters-/3370192-4864482-20ptr7/index.html
“I visited the village where the incidence happened for a story, I can surely tell you the community members are scared of even talking about FGM. I believe the jailing of the woman sent a clear message on how serious the government was in the fight against FGM. Many more needs to face the law because the community has been sensitized but they are just ignorant” a reporter with a main vernacular radio station in Meru and Tharaka Nithi County told me. These are just but few examples of what was happening in several FGM hotspot counties in Kenya during the December holidays, allow me not to mention Marsabit County or Wajir County.
The fight against FGM and other harmful cultural practices has been ongoing for many years now. The pioneers started way before we were born and major gains have been made over the years. In Kenya the prevalence of FGM has reduced from 37.6% in 1998 to 21% in 2014 this is huge. To completely eliminate this practice though I feel the end FGM stakeholders; government agencies, NGOs and activists need to be put under more pressure to deliver.
Those who know my stand on conferences they have never been my thing but I am a proposing one main conference in the heat of Natembea’s proposal. Get the end FGM stakeholders in an iron sheet shed deep down in Turkana County at temperatures of between 34 – 36 degrees, no water or food until they come up with lasting solutions. Kindly make sure Judiciary, Department of Children services, ODDP Anti FGM unit, Police and the Chiefs are represented as they have been slippery. Maybe you can also loop-in Fred Matiangi to tell us why he has been silent while his foot soldiers; the chiefs, police and some county commanders watch. Let them fire at each other with no sugar coating, have bouncers in place just in case hell breaks loose. …..(try get the deeper meaning)