Elders spearhead campaigns to eradicate FGM

Elders drawn from 22 FGM hot spot counties have pledged to spearhead campaigns to end the practice of FGM in their respective communities. This commitment was made at a high-level forum in Nairobi organized by the Anti-FGM Board and UNFPA Kenya. The elders pledged to partner with President Uhuru Kenyatta and the government to end the vice in Kenya.

The elders noted that as custodians of culture, they would lead community dialogues and education sessions on FGM, issue statements and provide guidance in support of abandonment and lead public declarations renouncing the practice. . In 2016, UNICEF estimated that at least 200 million women and girls alive had been subjected to FGM/C worldwide. According to the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey, 2014, the national prevalence of FGM stands at 21% compared to 27% in 2008/9, and 32% in 2003.

Speaking at the opening session of the forum, Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Chief Administrative Secretary Hon. Rachel Shebesh, who represented Cabinet Secretary Prof. Margaret Kobia, said FGM goes hand in hand with early, child and forced marriages. She decried that FGM is still high among certain communities for instance; Somali (94%), Samburu (86%), Kisii (84%) and Maasai (78%). This is against the national average of 21%, which she said is also very high.

“This forum is a renewed commitment by both religious and cultural elders from the twenty-two FGM practicing counties in Kenya to end FGM in one generation by 2022,” said Hon. Shebesh. “Make anti FGM messaging your personal responsibility as opinion shapers and leaders in your respective communities and spheres of influence. Use your authority and power to fight FGM as our experiences manifest that FGM has no social, health, economic, spiritual or any other value other than impeding on the equal opportunity of girls and women to fully enjoy their inherent and God given rights,” she added.

Speaking at the signing UNFPA Kenya Country Representative Dr. Ademola Olajide said, ‘An analysis carried out by the Joint Programme, show that women and girls tend to ‘over estimate’ male support for the practice, and a large percentage of women and men are unaware of what the other thinks. It is clear that although FGM is deeply associated with gender discrimination, it is evident that majority of men and boys are actually against the practice but this unfortunately is not verbalized as the desire to end FGM by individuals is often hidden.’

‘As the world congregates in Kenya for the Nairobi summit to mark 25 years of the ICPD, UNFPA commits to work with cultural and religious leaders in Kenya to realize ZERO FGM.’ added Dr. Olajide

This commitment is in line with the commitment made during the opening plenary of the Women Deliver conference and in the meeting with UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem, by His Excellency Uhuru Kenyatta, President of the Republic of Kenya, who committed to end FGM in Kenya by 2022.

The elders were drawn from the counties of Marsabit, Isiolo, Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, Tana River, Meru Tharaka Nithi, Embu and Narok. Others are NaroK, Bomet, Baringo, Kajiado, Taita Taveta, Kisii, Nyamira, Migori, Elgeyo Marakwet, West Pokot, Laikipia, Samburu and Bungoma (Mt. Elgon).
In Kenya, there has been a gradual decline in FGM among women aged 15-49, from 38% (1999) to 32% (2003), 27% (2008), and 21% recorded in the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS 2014). The decline can be attributed to multi-faceted approaches mounted by the government of Kenya and non-state actors. 2 major milestones being the enactment and implementation of Children Act 2001, as well as the Prohibition of FGM Act 2011. Despite the steady decline nationally, the prevalence remains high amongst some communities such as the Somali at 94%, Samburu 86%, Kisii 84% and Maasai at 78%.