350 Girls Safely Initiated into Womanhood in Samburu County

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Amref Health Africa and USAID support Alternative Rite of Passage programme to protect girls from circumcision.

20th April 2018… A total of 350 girls have today been initiated into womanhood through an Alternative Rite of Passage ceremony held in Samburu County, through a programme supported by USAID in partnership with Amref Health Africa.

The event was the culmination of week-long activities and training that involved sensitisation on female genital mutilation and early marriages through classes on sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Speaking during the graduation, the Principal Secretary for Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs, Ms Safina Kwekwe Tsungu, said that FGM is a manifestation of gender inequality that is deeply entrenched in socio – economic and political structures and it represents society’s control over women.

Eradication of FGM is pertinent to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals including targets on health and well-being, quality education, safe motherhood and economic growth, all of which are underpinned by work that empowers women and girls and achieves gender equality,” said Tsungu.

USAID Missions Director Tina Jones noted that although many countries have passed laws banning this practice, enforcement has remained a challenge.

“USAID has included FGM/C as part of its global strategy to respond to and prevent gender-based violence. The practice violates women’s right to be free from cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. It also deprives girls and women of the right to make decisions about a procedure that has a lasting effect on their bodies and infringes on their autonomy and control over their lives,” said Jones.

She said USAID was proud to be part of the international movement against FGM/C and to work with both national and county governments to eliminate all harmful practices that affect women and girls.

FGM is performed mostly on girls aged between the ages of 12 and 18, but some studies have even shown that girls are now being cut earlier to avoid detection as a response to legislation banning the practice.
FGM/C and child, early and forced marriage (CEFM) are two of the most harmful and highly prevalent traditional practices affecting women and girls in Africa. They come with severe health consequences to girls and women that highly impede on their rights, as the practices hinder full access to education and career development opportunities. In the Samburu, Borana, Rendille and Gabra where both FGM/C and CEFM are practiced together, the negative consequences are intensified.

The event also saw the county launch of Koota Injena (Come let us talk) a project in which Amref will work with clan elders to stop FGM and end child marriages in Samburu and Marsabit countries. Clan elders are gatekeepers and custodians of culture in their communities, and it is hoped that this approach will help to make inroads in dealing with the issues of FGM in the two c through a ‘clan effect’.

Amref Health Africa Country Director Dr Meshack Ndirangu said that communities are able and best placed to solve the problems that they face as they have the capacity to develop culturally acceptable, cost effective, sustainable and lasting solutions.

“We seek to support communities to own and take lead in initiatives to end FGM and child marriage,” he said.

Samburu and Marsabit counties have the highest FGM prevalence rates in Kenya of 86 per cent and 91.7 per cent respectively, a factor attributable to lack of initiatives to educate girls on the facts about FGM and early marriage. FGM is closely tied to marriageability for some ethnic groups, and for others, it is linked to concepts of family honour and preservation of sexual purity.

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