Where are We Now? An Update on the Anti-FGM Project (Kenya)
2017 has been an exciting year for our Il Ngwesi partnership project. Although we had a slow start due to cattle rustling incidence, a national election and drought affecting pastoralists in the area, community members and project leaders have been eager to proceed with the project. Various community activities were planned in early August to December 2017. Since July, 3 elder and 4 youth workshops have been held, with a ‘bless the curse’ ceremony proposed for November by the community that will culminate in an alternative rites of passage ceremony in December, 2017.
Josephine Ndiris, project coordinator and volunteer in Kenya facilitated an elders’ workshop on July 20th attended by elders, known cutters and traditional birth attendants. In the community, elders are acknowledged as the custodians of culture and law, and key decision makers in the community. The elders understand legal implications of continuing outlawed cultural practice and are willing to work with the community to stop this practice.
At the workshop, an elder talked about the history of FGM in the community and said that it was a practice that could be changed. A well-known cutter reported that after watching video at the Leparua group ranch on the harmful effects of the practice, she had not cut girls in the last 6 months.
The elders concluded that since change of this practice was considered a curse, they would undertake a blessing ceremony in November 2017 and at next year’s International Day of Zero Tolerance on FGM for those clans and families that have embraced alternative rites of passage.
4 youth anti-FGM training workshops mobilized by youth volunteers held in various villages with an estimated 320 youth attending. Youth were introduced to the harmful effects and legal implications of FGM through video and training materials. Workshops were key to reaching youth not attending school and girls and families facing stigma for not undergoing the cut. The youth were excited to support the project and called upon elders to take the lead in putting an end to this cultural practice.
Family and Elders Meeting
“When spider webs unite they can tie up a lion” African Proverb
Elders have been at the forefront of bringing together families in the group ranch to educate on the negative impacts of FGM. At Ngarendare village, around 150 community members met at a family meeting.
An open forum encouraged the attendees to share opinions on the practice. Many were interested in the origin of FGM, and acknowledged that the practice was not attached to the culture. They all agreed that those who planned to undergo the cut would be blessed. From the meeting, the anti-FGM committee would then work with the elders to plan a blessing ceremony in mid-November, 2017.
Community Visit to The Mara Maasai Community
In October, elders, women, cutters, community nurses and Maasai warriors will be traveling to Kajiado to visit the Mara Maasai community in Kajiado, Kenya and learn learn how the community has been able to abandon the cut. They will use the information gathered to prepare an alternative rite of passage ceremony to be held December that will transition Il Ngwesi girls from childhood to womanhood.
‘Bless the Curse’ Ceremony
In mid-November, Il Ngwesi elders plan to ‘bless the curse’ for group ranch families that have accepted the alternative rite of passage for their girls. The community are eager to hear that elders have undone the curse to get on board prior to the late November/early December alternative rite of passage ceremony
Il Ngwesi Girls Camp
in late November/early December, a girls camp planned and will be attended by 100 girls that will be undergoing an alternative rite of passage. These girls will be the community’s social pioneers as they will bring positive social change. At the camp, the girl will receive information on the harmful effects of FGM, early childhood marriages, leadership skills, self esteem, and menstruation etc.
Alternative Rites of Passage Ceremony (December, 2017)
ICA Canada and the Il Ngwesi community are looking forward to celebrating girls undergoing an alternative rite of passage. We will be updating our website and social media media pages on this exciting event.