Nairobi, September 21, 2020 – With the support of the Amref Health Africa in Kenya led and USAID funded Koota Injena project, topmost elders from the Gabra community made a vow to support the education of the girl child. They also declared Child Early and Forced Marriages (CEFM) illegal during a clan engagement meeting in North Horr, Marsabit County, facilitated by the Koota Injena project. This comes after the Gumi Gayo Assembly recently outlawed Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) and child early and forced marriages that have been practised by the Borana community living in Kenya and Ethiopia. Decision making in these communities rests entirely with the topmost clan elders.
Amref Health Africa in Kenya has been on the forefront in protecting girls, women and children from various forms of Gender-Based Violence. Through the Koot Injena project, Amref has been using dialogue as an engagement tool to educate the target communities on the health, and economic effects of harmful cultural practises such as FGM/C and CEFM in Marsabit and Samburu counties. While complete abandonment is yet to be achieved in the communities, progress has been made in ensuring women and girls are protected. By working together with law enforcement agencies through the Area Advisory Councils (AAC), the community is more aware of the legal consequences of continuing with the practices. Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, more than 30 girls have been rescued and protected from FGM/C and CEFM through AAC coordination.
John Okandi, Koota Injena Project Manager and Senior Technical Advisor FGM/C, said, “These declarations are a step in the right direction towards ending FGM/C and CEFM. Despite Kenya having a robust institutional, policy and legal frameworks coupled with increased awareness of the impacts of FGM/CEFM, the practices continue in secret in some communities. Winning the intervention of top clan elders and community decision making organs in making such declarations provide lasting and sustainable solutions towards the abandonment of these practices.” In June last year, President Uhuru Kenyatta committed to eradicating FGM/C by 2022 at the Women Deliver Conference held in Canada.
The Koota Injena project has been working with champions over the last three years to reach out to the youth through dialogue and educate communities on the negative health impacts of the cut, early marriage as well as provide the much-needed information on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR). School Health Club meetings have also played an integral role in the transfer of life skills, knowledge on SRHR, effects of FGM/C, CEFM and upholding the value of the girl. These have since been suspended following the government directive on school closure due to COVID-19. Koota Injena recently established two temporary rescue shelters in Samburu and Marsabit Counties. The shelters act as a holding space for rescued girls and provide psychosocial support before successful linkage for medico-legal services.
The project has also continued to sensitize the community on measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 during the community dialogue sessions. Inter-personal behaviour change communication is key in encouraging the adoption of safe, hygienic practices in households, health facilities, and hotspots (public spaces) as directed by the Ministry of Health.
Koota Injena is a three year (2017-2020) USAID-funded proof of concept activity designed to implement and test the effectiveness of engaging clan elders, community leaders, and members, of using intergenerational dialogue and of strengthening positive youth and male engagement as levers to change norms and behaviours for the abandonment of CEFM, FGM/C and low value of the girl among the 40 clans
of Samburu (nine clans), Borana (seventeen clans), Rendille (nine clans) and Gabra (five clans) communities in Samburu and Marsabit Counties.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
About Amref Health Africa
Amref Health Africa, headquartered in Kenya, is the largest Africa based International Non-Governmental Organisation (INGO) currently running programs in over 35 countries in Africa with lessons learnt over 60 years of engagement with governments, communities and partners to increase sustainable health access in Africa. Amref Health Africa also incorporates programme development, fundraising, partnership, advocacy, monitoring and evaluation, and has offices in Europe and North America as well as subsidiaries: Amref Flying Doctors, Amref Enterprises and the Amref International University
Janice Njoroge, Communications Manager, Amref Health Africa in Kenya
Email: [email protected]