It is estimated that 100,000 girls undergo female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) in Kenya every year.
The Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS 2014) showed that 21 per cent of women and girls aged between 15-49 years in Kenya have undergone FGM. The enactment of the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act 2011 was a great milestone for Kenya and the country has seen a national decline in the prevalence of FGM. However, the prevalence varies widely across regions and ethnic communities, with the practice still higher among communities such as the Maasai of Kajiado County at 78%, where it is directly linked to marriageability and is typically carried out on young girls below the age of 15 to make them eligible brides.
Through the efforts of the County government and civil society partners working in Kajiado such as Amref Health Africa, there is growing recognition that FGM is a harmful cultural practice and a violation of the rights of women and girls.
Over the last five years, Amref Health Africa and other partners working in Kajiado have put in concerted efforts for the enactment of county-specific policy to support the fight against FGM. Following a number of sensitization forums over the years including meetings with the county leadership and members of the county assembly, including the Gender Office, civil society organisations and the community, a draft policy was prepared and tabled before the County Assembly for review and assent.
The Kajiado County FGM Policy was assented to by Governor Joseph Ole Lenku on 21 August 2019, with its launch slated for 5 December 2019.
The policy provides a framework for the eradication of FGM by sensitizing the community that FGM is illegal and a violation of human rights. It also seeks to empower and support cutters performing FGM to embrace alternative sources of livelihood, while strengthening multi-sector interventions, coordination, networking, partnership, and community participation in accelerating the eradication of FGM. Developing research, data collection, information, and knowledge management functions related to FGM and promoting community dialogue on FGM are also key objectives of the policy.
Through Amref’s Unite for Body Rights (UFBR) project implemented in Kajiado between 2011 and 2015, Health Systems Advocacy Partnership project, the ongoing Yes I Do Alliance (YIDA) programme (consortium of five organizations: Amref, Plan International, Network for Adolescents and Youth of Africa (NAYA KENYA), Centre for the Study of Adolescents (CSA) and UJAMAA AFRICA) and ),and like-minded CSOs such as EACHRights, Respect For Change, Ilaramatak CBO, 28 Too many and Feed the Children, Amref has been at the forefront supporting the county towards this monumental accomplishment.
The Kajiado County FGM Policy proposes the Alternative Rite of Passage (ARP) approach as a key intervention in the campaign against FGM in the county. Over the last 10 years, Amref Health Africa has been working with the Maasai Community in Kajiado, Samburu and Kilindi (Tanzania) to eradicate FGM/C through the ARP approach where girls are empowered to continue their education and become the women of their dreams without ‘the cut.’
Amref propagates the community-led Alternative Rite of Passage approach to fight FGM by engaging families and communities through elders 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 age appropriate Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights 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 better future.
Kajiado County has seen improved educational outcomes through an increase in the number of girls continuing with their education following the adoption of the ARP approach.
With the Kajiado County FGM Policy now in place, and under the leadership of the County, it is anticipated that the ARP program will expand thus increasing the number of girls who successfully undergo the alternative rite of passage, consequently staying in school to achieve desired education outcomes.