Happy New year!
On 10th and 11th December 2018 I was privileged to sit down at the National religious leaders summit held in Nairobi Kenya. The summit brought together religious leaders’ and scholars from all the FGM hotspot counties in Kenya. The Islamic religious leaders present included among others the Deputy Chief Kadhi of Kenya, National Chair the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya (CIPK), North Eastern Region Chair Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (SUPKEM) as well as many renown Muslim scholars in Kenya. Christians were not left behind either with clergy from most of the denominations being in attendance, among those present was Reverend Connie Kivuti General Secretary of the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya and also a board member of the Anti FGM Board.
The aim of the summit was to provide a platform for religious leaders to initiate and sustain a National conversation on the ongoing efforts in the fight against FGM/C in Kenya; with a view of taking stock of what has worked and what needs to be improved on as well as to initiate the process of developing a National Plan of Action on the role of religious leaders in ending FGM/C in Kenya.
The summit was graced with the presence of Hon. Safina Kwekwe the Gender Principal Secretary who gave the official opening remarks. She challenged the religious leaders’ presence to take it upon themselves to ensure that this harmful practice was eliminated once and for all.
“Majority of Kenyans subscribe to a religion and sometime they tend to listen to you more than they listen to us government officials” she said
“In Kenya over 9.3 Million Women and girls alive today live with the scars of FGM” she added, “this shows out of the 200 Million women and girls who have undergone FGM/C in the whole world as per the available statistics almost 5% of them reside in Kenya” she lamented.
“I am not cut; does this make me a lesser Muslim?” she challenged the religious leaders
The main highlight of the two-day summit was the discussion around Sunna and FGM. I can authoritatively report that all Muslim religious leaders and scholars agreed that Female Genital Mutilation was not an Islamic requirement whatsoever. The point of departure though was few scholars who argued that Sunna was contained in hadith. After heated deliberations everyone agreed there was no punishment whatsoever for not carrying out Sunna and hence it did not make sense why the same should be encouraged.
In his presentation the Deputy Chief Khadi of Kenya noted that no one had monopoly of opinion. He added those present at the summit were just a small representation of the religious leaders in Kenya and there was need to cascade the resolutions of the conference to the counties and eventually to the sub-counties, villages and communities. This would ensure all the religious leaders understood each other on the matter to clear any doubts or disagreements as this harmful practice affected many innocent women and girls. He concluded that the experience of FGM survivors tells a lot about FGM, terming it as an experience they would never wish to go through again.
You may be wondering where the Christian clergy were all this time; well from the Christians side of view there was no contention at all. They all agreed that this was a harmful cultural practice and the churches had a great role to play in the fight against the vice. They noted that some of the churches and religious leaders had given a cold eye to the whole issue of FGM. This was mainly for fear of losing congregants and backlash from the community. They vowed though to take it upon themselves to revamp the fight against this harmful cultural practice that had no medical benefits whatsoever but countless lifetime complications.
On the second day Hon. Wario Ali, the Member of Parliament for Bura Constituency, who’s also the chairperson of Labor and Social Welfare Parliamentary Committee was here to grace the occasion and give the closing remarks.
“For how long will we bury our heads in the sand, the reality is people are suffering, over 9 Million women and girls have undergone FGM in Kenya, is this not enough? Or how many more? Till we speak to address this issue. The law is in place but suffering continues under the disguise of ‘our culture’, ignorance is the order of the day, we come to these meetings in big hotels discuss issues and agree but when we walk out it dies there!” He challenged the religious leaders.
“We are in the national assembly where I chair a whole sector if you want us to review policies and laws we are there for you” He promised “But we want you people to stand up from today, let go out of this conference room and sensitize the populations in our villages, let’s bring everyone on the board even the ignorant” He said
“When parliament resumes in February 2019 my committee will engage directly with the Anti FGM Board and the National Gender and Equality Commission to discuss the progress made in ending FGM and especially the implementation of the Anti FGM law” He promised as he concluded.
At the end of the two days meeting the religious leaders agreed the form an interdenominational movement dubbed “Religious Leaders Against FGM”. Provisional officials were also agreed upon to help spearhead the activities of the movement. The religious leaders agreed on a six months’ road map to organize and hold county meetings as well as village sensitization meetings in their respective areas of operation. It was also resolve a similar National religious leaders summit to be held in June 2019 to review the progress made.
Note: The summit was made possible by World Vision Kenya in partnership with Dayaa Women Group from Tana River County Kenya. Remember It Takes Us All to End Violence against Children’ and religious leaders are vital members in our societies.
Watch the Press conference as reported by NTV Kenya