International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation

 

The number of young women and girls in danger of facing Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Kenya is steadily falling as a coalition of government authorities, NGOs and local communities have set up safe houses while attempting to change traditional cultural practices.

Despite recording some gains in the past few years, Kenya remains in the red with one of the world's highest prevalence rates of FGM – estimated to be 21% among women aged 15-49. World Vision experts say the prevalence of FGM in the East African country vary widely across age, location, ethnic group, and religion. These factors have led the charity to devise various intervention methods to curb the practice of FGM among the most affected communities.

Phiona Koyiet, World Vision’s National Coordinator for Gender and Disability said: “We have set up 7 dormitories or safe houses for girls in danger of FGM in their families and communities in the Narok county of Kenya. We also have over a hundred other safe houses across Kenya. Working with the government, other NGOs, community and religious leaders and academics, we have also designed a program called Alternative Rites of Passages (ARPs), which consists of a series of activities replacing the harmful FGM with non-harmful traditional rituals highlighting girls’ initiation into adulthood.

“It’s encouraging that global FGM rates have dropped in recent years. However, 3 million girls are still cut annually. Every one of them will suffer long-term emotional and physical pain. It is estimated that more than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone Female Genital Mutilation in the countries where the practice is concentrated. World Vision is working in these countries to ensure that children are protected from FGM and forced marriage but we need the support of governments to ensure more girls are kept safe.”

Today marks the annual International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (6 February), a reminder that FGM blights the lives of hundreds of millions of young girls and women around the world. FGM is a cultural practice of partially or completely removing the external female genitalia to inhibit a woman's sexual desires, but it is widely regarded as a human rights violation.

World Vision, together with other partners, are working to challenge the traditional belief that FGM is more ‘hygienic’ or makes more ‘obedient, good natured women’.

According to Dr. Lotte Hughes, a senior research fellow at the Open University, ARPs have become popular across Kenya and are seen as agents of cultural change.

“Alternative Rites of Passage have become very popular in Kenya in recent years. They are usually held in early December to coincide with the ‘cutting season’ – a time when girls are most at risk of FGM and the forced early marriage that usually follows it,” she said. “ARP is just one part of a longer-term process aimed at changing people’s attitudes and behaviour, which its proponents hope will eventually lead to the eradication of FGM. It also includes other activities such as community sensitisation, awareness raising, and mentoring for girls. FGM not only wrecks girls’ bodies and lifelong health, it also constitutes a human rights abuse and in most cases, cuts girls’ education short too.”

Carina Wint | Media Specialist | Mobile: 07471216013 | Direct Line: | 0207 821 3461