Hundreds of Kenyan girls are preparing to spend Christmas in schools,
rather than with their families, fearing that their parents will force
them to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM).
recent report from the country's bureau of statistics.
"You pity them. They have children and they themselves are children. When you ask them why, they answer you: 'What do I do? There is no-one to pay school fees for me.' They need help too. The girls who have run away from home are being supported by many members of the local community, who have embraced the anti-FGM campaign. Girls, boys and even some parents came together and marched in solidarity with those who had run away.They were wearing shirts of various colours denoting the villages they come from, each one bearing the message: "Stop, run away from FGM".
Caroline, one of the girls who took part in the event, says most of her friends have been forced by their parents to drop out of school, and some will be married off. "I have learned how to protect myself once I go back to the village. I know where to report when I am threatened. I will also sensitive others," she says. But activist Selina Kinara says that since the ban on FGM and the intensification of campaigns against it, the practice has not stopped, but been driven underground.
"The many girls who have run away from home because they have been forced to undergo circumcision, but we urge them when they are forced they should report to the local chief," she says.
"There are some
churches here which encourage their followers to circumcise their girls
but things are changing, so nowadays they do it secretly."There are many who believe that circumcision is required by religion and also expected from those within their own communities.
Local county commissioner Brian Njeru admits it will take years for the practice to be eradicated and girls will continue to be vulnerable. "This is a deeply entrenched issue that will take time to completely get rid of. "These days there are no elaborate ceremonies to celebrate girls who have undergone FGM. "It is very secretive and it makes it very difficult to apprehend those who are behind this." Mr Njeru has turned all the girls' schools in his division into rescue centres. He says the number of girls enrolling in both primary and secondary schools has increased sharply since the ban on FGM came into force five years ago.
"Most of the girls now aren't going to undergo FGM. Instead they come for training," says Gladys Andiema, the headmistress of Saint Catherine Chepnyal Girls School. Loise Chesista, one of the beneficiaries of training sessions offered at Chepnyal, says she has gained lots of skills from the school. "We have many friends who would have wanted to be in schools but their parents cannot afford [it]. I believe, with help, most of them can study and excel," she says.
The names of some of the girls interviewed for this article have been changed to protect their identities.
Humbly, it is from the above predicaments of the FGM Escapees/girls that today, girls
globally still want to push boundaries. They want to make their voices heard,
contribute to society and lead lives that can transform their communities. They
don’t need people, experts or NGOs to tell them what needs to be done. In fact,
girls are the experts on their own needs and their lived realities - they just
need to be given the opportunity, skills and support to make their voices
Our organization, the Stema Women Development Group, is empowering girls around the community to tackle the issues that matter to them. Our non-formal education approach – which relies on experiential, hands-on learning – helps to make complex topics accessible and fun for young people. Our values-based approach also equips girls and young women with the desire, the confidence and the skills to translate what they’ve learned into practical action in their communities.
However, if we want to see girls really flourish it means we have to do our part too. Just over one year ago, in September 2015, world leaders came together to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals, an ambitious agenda to tackle poverty, climate change, and all forms of inequality by 2030. If we are to achieve these ambitious goals, we must recognize the power and potential of girls. The Global Goals will only ever be achieved if governments, businesses, communities and civil society invest in girls and women and give them the tools they need to lead and thrive.
What’s clear to me is girls have the enthusiasm, passion and desire to change their communities for the better. It’s about time the world sat up and not only took notice, but gave girls the belief, support and tools to thrive. What they could achieve would be truly limitless.
Support Them (FGM Escapees/Girls).
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