Over the years we have been running an End FGM Marathon but now it’s time to sprint to the finish line. 2030 is on sight, and we have no option but to be intentional, loud and clear in our End FGM messaging. Unfortunately, some of the communities are stuck a few Kilometers from the starting line and we have ignored them over time and concentrated on the elite runners. Sadly, this has gone unnoticed over years but now we have a big problem. The race has been declared a group race and all participants have to finish for us to win.
On the dawn of 16th July 2019, I left Nairobi for Tana River County on invitation by Dayaa Women group. A survivor led group that advocates for end FGM within and without the County. Ten hours later I was in Hola the County headquarters ready for the activities the following day. Don’t be scared if you are planning to visit you can fly to Malindi from Nairobi and then drive 3 – 4 hours to get there.
On day one of the community outreach we took a break and visited ‘Mama Chai’ at Makutano area. Little did I know I was in for a shock of my life. Never have I ever encountered a woman who is as proud of FGM as this one in my life. “All girls in our community undergo FGM, I was cut and I cut my daughter last year and I am really happy for her, who will marry ‘malaya'(Prostitute), barabara(highway) if I don’t cut her” She lamented as we were having a cup of Somali flavored tea. Trust me I tried to convince her but this was a typical case of playing a guitar to a goat and expecting it to dance.
Earlier that morning we had paid a courtesy call to the County Commissioner. He explained to us how the group was making strides in sparking conversations around FGM. “Few years ago you could not speak openly about FGM but now with groups like Dayaa we have been able to break the ice” Said Mr Ole Sosio.
During my stay we visited Hola Boys Secondary School. The boys were eager to learn and very inquisitive. They wanted to know if FGM was a religious requirement? Some wondered why their forefathers practiced this culture openly and now we were here terming it a harmful practice? At the end of the evening I realized we have a serious information gap among the young people in this County and there is need to upscale sensitization to achieve the generational gap that we so much yearn for in the fight against FGM. All in all, I had a memorable evening with the boys as they were willing to listen, participate and learn.
We were also fortunate to visit the TBS radio for an amazing talk show where we shared our views as men and the need to be allies in the fight against FGM. Men yield immense power in different aspects of women’s life; as custodians of culture, politicians, judges, religious leaders, fathers and husbands. This means we are in the best position to challenge and reject the harmful cultural practices and norms and replace them with acceptable behaviors. The feedback was amazing from the listeners. They were amused that a man from Meru County was talking about FGM. ‘I bet the Miraa factor also played a role’.
Having previously visited Tiaty in Baringo County and several villages and schools in Tana River County, and being aware of vast Counties of Wajir, Mandera and some parts of Garissa. My question is what are we doing with these communities that have FGM prevalence way above 90%. Will we get to the finish line and wait for them or is it time to wake up and do something! I know some will be quick to say these areas are not secure, but let me point out we have local community based organizations who understand the terrain, are well versed with the local context and do not require police escort to carry out activities. Why not use them as an entry point?