End-FGM Campaigner Catherine Thiakunu is the overseer of a large team of activists and male champions in Meru County and Elgeyo Marakwet County. Above Catherine is photographed in Igembe South sensitising local police on their role in ending FGM.
Meru County: Ten women underwent FGM
Due to the drought, we have had no reported cases of girls under going FGM, since the situation has been so severe this December, Parents are not cutting their girls, but they are preparing to cut their boys.
“Mothers are not allowed to be involved in cultural rituals without being cut in these communities and that is why we discovered 10 cases of women in their 30s and 40s getting cut this December. These are the only reported cases of FGM in Meru County.”Catherine Thakunu
Women from Ngembe South visited a circumciser in Ngembe Central who cuts women in groups of threes:
“They arrive in the night and leave the next day, carried home on a motorbike. The Type of FGM is Type 1 and Type 2.”Catherine Thakunu
The chiefs complained to Catherine that the police weren’t helping.
“When a chief reports a case, the police did not support us or do anything.”Catherine Thakunu
Due to the lack of communication between the police and the chiefs in Meru county Catherine arranged a meeting with the police to sensitise them on their role in helping to end FGM.
Meru county police sensitisation : “We cannot do this alone – we need your help!”
The film was chosen to sensitise the officers so they can understand how serious FGM is and why they must help to stop it. After the meeting that was set up to mend the missing links between chiefs and police officers in Meru county. The chief officer at the District County Commissioners office in Igembe South – Issued press a statement to the community: “WE WILL MAKE ARRESTS IF YOU CUT YOUR GIRLS.”
The police are now looking for the circumciser and hope to arrest her for the ten cases. She is thought to be a retired nurse. To make this arrest the two county police stations are working together to find her.
Filling in the Gaps:
The police commander assigned three policemen that will now deal with GBV cases. The chiefs are now really happy that they have support from the police and a point of call if they need to alert them. Due to Catherine’s initiative, more girls will be saved as police officers crack down on FGM cutters.
Meru: We need better care for FGM victims
Currently, when a victim is taken to the hospital – they are kept waiting for a whole day until they are seen. Then they are forced to buy the medical form. Victims become more victimised and the staff and community are known to make the process humiliating for the women and girls who are declaring that they have undergone FGM. The charge of the medical form also makes it difficult for girls to come forward, since Kenya faces drought, many lack the means to the basics.
“I want to follow up with the ministry of health: Dr. Karioki, who has previously helped us follow a case of a 14-year-old girl who died of FGM – in December 2018 in Ngembe North at the District hospital in Ngembe south- the biggest hospital serving all 3 counties in Meru.”Catherine Thakunu
I want to talk to him about how things need to change: FGM victims need to be served first, and they should not be charged for the medical form.
“We have male champions working on the ground, these are trained champions in different locations to cover all areas.”Catherine Thakunu
- Clement Chasarak – a champion organising all other champions in Marakwet sub-county east
- Sara – Marakwet – sub county east
August graduation replaced with mass FGM – public ceremony planned for January 2023
In August 2022, 200 girls aged 7-16 underwent FGM, we intercepted and our team saved 300 girls. No arrests were made.
300 girls were put in Chesongoch church as a safe location. Parents and cutters who wished to cut their girls took advantage of Covid 19 and how it affected the holidays in Kenya.
“The parents and cutters took advantage as no one expected it. The girls were not able to graduate because of Covid-19 and so they used this time to cut them.”Catherine Thakunu
The girls are graduating – a public ceremony to show the community that they are no longer children – they are mature women – they prepared a big event on Saturday 7th &14th January according to the community they are mature women now and therefore we expect cases of child marriage to occur. We will attempt to continue to water down these ceremonies and stop this bad practice.
13 cases reported – Kaban
We have the list of mothers’ names who are responsible.
Called the assistant county commissioner, DCC of the district to request that he follows up with the cases. He said:
“The area is difficult for the police to reach because of the natural valley that formed in 2018, that is why there have been no arrests so far.”DCC, County Commissioner
at the beginning of January, a community war started to flare up between Pokot and Marakwet
“Two weeks ago, two girls were killed and many cows and goats were stolen.”Catherine Thakunu
It is now feared that the war will encourage more FGM -as parents and cutters take advantage while police are elsewhere. This is a big geographical area and many places are unreachable making it even more challenging.
Changes in the patterns of behavior around FGM:
- FGM happening abruptly – people are taking the chance when they can
- Civilians are armed which means there is heightened sensitivity
- Police fear arresting criminals – that may be armed due to the war.
- The age of FGM has been reduced to 7- 14 age – girls aren’t aware of what’s happening – unable to sensitise girl
- Location of FGM has been moving towards secret locations including Caves in kaban, kiptunwa
“In Maraquet we need a social behavioral change – this takes time – an arrest is one approach – but the other is – factual stories that can educate the local communities on why FGM must end!”Catherine Thakunu
People before have been telling communities that they must not do it because the tools are dirty and so cause diseases to spread. But this didn’t work to end FGM as it only encouraged the medicalisation approach to FGM.
A new message is needed to engage the community – FGM is a social norm at the moment so we need to engage them for a long period so they do a community declaration – they will keep hiding – so we need to educate everyone in the community. .. not one day .. not two days.. its a long term thing. Continuous work in community … human rights approach