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Elders on Radio Accept that the girl child is the source of change and holds a voice of reason, ending FGM in Kenya and Uganda

By Isaac Kiptei,

Our media project funded by Global Media Campaign (GMC) was directed at engaging the Kalenjin communities living in Trans-Nzoia, Bungoma, West Pokot, and Uasin Gishu counties and also Eastern parts of Uganda bordering Kenya. These communities are Sabaots, Pokots, Nandies, and Sebei’s of Uganda.

The project:

The message of the day was the rejuvenation of our girls-culture. This was a discussion on the effects of FGM on the girls and community as a whole, school drop-outs, and teenage pregnancies.
This has been the biggest threat to the community as the young youthful gender is being destroyed.

In the presser, I have included the chairperson of the Sabaot community Mr. William Kasis who is also a retired chief, and mama Margaret Chelimo who is a victim of FGM and a retired teacher who is also an advocate for communal change. The media personality is represented by the presenter, Mr. Solomon, and the youths represented by Mr. Kiptei. Two radio conversations took place.

Success:

The media project was very much successful in that it reached a large crowd who listens to BK Radio both in Trans-Nzoia, Bungoma, West Pokot, and parts of Uasin Gishu counties approximately 1.5M listeners.

FGM was practiced since time immemorial because our community used to move from one point to another. By now, there is a lot of effects associated with FGM, no wonder we are very few. We have to do away with it as it’s past time.

Through the responses from the members of the community, they really appreciated the discussion and maintain that indeed the community has gone astray in terms of the children’s conduct leading to a high rate of pregnancies and school dropouts. Some argued that FGM was playing a major role in shaping up the community but through the discussion, they realized that because of the major negative implications it has on girls, there is no need for the continued practice of the same.

Difficulties encountered:

The major problem encountered was getting the acceptance of the elders within the given shortest time and enabling them to give a view of how the community views some matters. I only managed to get the consent of one Mr. Kasis.

Strong messages:

Mr. William Kasis identified that the cultural rules were set by men because the women were viewed as the weaker sex thus needed guidance to follow. This was like dictation on what the ladies can do without any question.

Mr. Kasis regretted how FGM has impacted negatively on ladies more so when it comes to childbearing.
He strongly advises the community to do away with FGM as its time is much gone. He highly advocated for girl child education stating that this is the only way the girls will open up to know themselves.

Madam Chelimo said that, for a girl to identify herself in the community, she has to be educated. It doesn’t matter if it’s formal or informal. That during their times, a girl was prepared to take care of the community. That’s in terms of child upbringing and taking care of the family property. Though the girl should be educated on her rights, she should always identify her space in the community lest she comes into collision with the men. She is always a helper and companion.

The girl should identify with her culture. She should sort out which culture is good and which one should be done away with.
The girl should be a leader, from home to the outside world. They should not fear being in a leadership position as they are agents of change.

Mr. Kiptei challenged the parents on their roles. He stated that the parent should create a family background with which each child can identify. Let the parents provide for their children’s needs. This is because most teenage pregnancies originate from teenagers lacking basic needs like the pads among others.

They should also give their children freedom of expression so as to know how they are going on in school and their friends and their background.
Mr. Solomon asked parents to ensure they check on what their kids are doing always on social media as it is the source of information and also all evils.

Unexpected wins and challenges:

The elders through their chairman accepting to forego FGM culture and accepted to teach the whole community against it.
The majority of the community members came together in the protection of the girl child.
The major challenge was resources for mobilization and going to the interior part of the community. Some of the community members don’t hear English nor Kiswahili, they need to be told in their mother tongue.

The major breakthrough:

The elders accepted to change the way in which the community views a girl child, from a weak vessel to a source of change and a voice of reason.

Most of the listeners stated that the high rate of pregnancies originates from home. They accepted that as the parents they were not playing their role well. Thus, resolved to provide for their children.
The community members also resolved to ensure that all children attend school, be it boys or girls.
Also, the media being a major mainstream that can reach the majority of members in the community, promised to keep on educating them on the different vices.

Next Time:

If I were to carry out this activity again, I will have a presser combining both the chairpersons of the six Sabaot dialects, the youth representatives, and the women representatives. This is to enable the message to sink across the ages, both the young and the old.

The elders being the custodians of the community secretes, will be able to give away forward on the new changes and more so when it comes to the FGM issues, gender-based violence among others.
The ladies will be able to outline the gender mainstreams and the roles of each in the community.
The youths who are the successors will carry the messages back to others and be able to educate the community on the new way of life and how to maintain the dignity of the community while eliminating the bad culture. This should be done at the communal level so as to include everyone.

Ruth Harley

Ruth Harley is an opera singer, writer, and creative. She is running The Women’s Vinyl Project which empowers women and girls through singing and music. She is working with GMC as the Website News Editor, compiling stories written by End FGM campaigners working with the Global Media Campaign to End FGM across Africa.