Through the Amref Health Africa in Kenya integrated Alternative Rite of Passage, Water Sanitation and Hygiene (ARPWASH) project, a community-led Alternative Rite of Passage (ARP) ceremony was held at Iltilal Primary School in Kajiado County where 545 girls graduated to womanhood.
In the days preceding the colourful graduation, over 600 boys and girls went through a three-day training on topics such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), life skills, WASH, children’s rights, teenage pregnancy, early marriage, personal hygiene and sexual reproductive health and rights.
Sharing her insights behind the scenes of the ARP event, former traditional birth attendant and ex-cutter Maria Lupempe narrated how she used to see women who had gone through FGM suffer during the child birth.
“Circumcised women suffer a lot when giving birth. They take long to heal after delivery,” she said. Maria added that being cut does not make women more superior, but it instead causes them to go through unnecessary pain. She believes that graduating girls to womanhood without the cut is a great thing as it allows them to continue with their education unlike when they are cut and married off. Maria now serves her community as a champion to end FGM and confirms that girls from her village have not been circumcised since she started her new mission.
On the eve of their graduation event, the girls were hosted to a ‘Candle Night Out’ and a fashion show, showcasing the beauty of the Maasai girls and their traditional attire. Jane Nkoitai was crowned Miss ARP Iltilal 2019 after impressing the judges.
Thirteen year old ARP graduate Nayieso Lemunju said, “FGM is a barrier to girls’ education since once a girl is cut, she automatically gets a man to marry her.” Nayieso is happy to have an opportunity to stay in school.
Speaking at the graduation event, Amref Health Africa Chief Programs Officer, Mette Kinoti thanked the Kajiado County government, partners and the community at large for collaborating with Amref Health Africa in fighting FGM. She assured the county government and the community of Amref’s support towards ending FGM.
During the graduation ceremony, elders from Iltilal blessed the girls in a symbolic action to wish the girls the best in the next phase of their lives.
Area Member of Parliament Hon. Katoo Ole Metito applauded Amref Health Africa for the support provided to Kajiado South Constituency saying, “Amref has been a key development partner in education, health, water and sanitation.” He also emphasised that FGM is prohibited by law and has to be stopped.
Amref Health Africa propagates the community-led Alternative Rite of Passage approach to fight FGM by engaging families and communities so that they can make a collective and coordinated choice to abandon the practice of FGM, and so that no single girl or family is disadvantaged by the decision.
ARP takes away the cut while retaining important cultural aspects such as sexual education, blessings by elders and keeping girls in school. It preserves and protects the good cultural values of communities and provides the much needed life-skills to the girls while giving them a future.
Both boys and girls are trained on sexual reproductive health, with lessons on body changes, sexually transmitted diseases and how to take care of their bodies as they experience the changes. The program also tackles the challenges that girls and boys face while undergoing puberty within their community. Kajiado County has seen an increase in the number of girls continuing with their education following an increase in the adoption of ARP. More girls are remaining in school following concerted efforts to change the culture of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) among the Maasai.