The community asked “How else can we initiate girls into womanhood?” Media Campaign to End FGM in Samburu, Kenya

The community asked “How else can we initiate girls into womanhood?” Media Campaign to End FGM in Samburu, Kenya


By Samuel Leadismo 

Samuel Leadismo is an anti-FGM campaigner that has been organising community media campaigns to help End FGM in Samburu, Kenya.

 “We believe in the collective community”

Samuel Leadismo

Empowerment of Samburu community on accelerating Abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) in Samburu County, through Radio Show-Samburu Community Radio.

Objective:

Increased commitment by community members in Samburu County to accelerate the abandonment of FGM/C and saving girls from FGM/C BY promoting education.

Expectation from the project:

  1. Community members support the campaign to end FGM/C and save girls from FGM/C.
  2. Empower the locals through local radio to End FGM in one generation
  3. Referral pathways for girls at risk of FGM/C and child marriage.

A brief history of FGM in Samburu:

The practice of FGM/C is deeply rooted in the Samburu communities, going back many centuries. FGM/C is a rite of passage to womanhood and preparation for marriage. The belief exists that girls who do not undergo FGM will be attracted to any man, are unclean, and unsuitable for marriage. The belief also exists that by undergoing FGM girls will grow into women who will be faithful to their husbands and not bring disease into the communities.

 In reality, this practice causes severe pain and can result in prolonged bleeding, infection, infertility, and death. Girls as young as 5 years old are forced to undergo the removal of their clitoris and/or labia with knives, scissors, razors, or even broken glass. In most cases, no pain medication is administered and unsterile instruments are used. The physical and psychological devastation stays with the girls. Yet, if a girl goes ‘uncut’ she is considered unsuitable for marriage. In Samburu County, 91% of girls over 15 have undergone FGM/C. 

The project has made good progress towards its goal of reducing FGM in Samburu County; The organization aims at empowering the whole community to move into a prosperity where Samburu is FGM free community. 

Ann Kanai-AntiFGM activities and John Letiwa-Samburu County health promotion officer.

Chapter Five of the Constitution of Kenya lists the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual. Women are required to make their own decision. We address the denial of basic rights for women which are stipulated in the Kenyan constitution and other statutes. 

The older generation is warming up to our mission to end FGM and is willing to listen to their educated sons and daughters. We’re making great progress. We also empower women to seek leadership positions to spearhead issues about the girl child and women in pastoralist communities. We believe in collective responsibility.

We focused on increased community engagement in child protection through capacity building of community members on child rights, the importance of education, and effects of Female Genital Mutilation and Child Marriage awareness, as a result, there is an increase of participants contributing and calls according to the radio project manager. 

Community and county government had a positive change of attitude about the event that it will be of great help to Samburu community, they have shown willingness to support by calling us during the radio show.

The community contribution on how to end FGM

  • With the elder’s approval, the young men will be approached to learn that it is alright to marry an uncircumcised girl since circumcision is not necessary and brings health complications to a girl/woman.
  • The dialogue should begin with the tribal elders who will declare to STOP FGM in Samburu.
  • Use of role models to sell the ideal (peer tutors).
  • Change attitudes and our ways of thinking through civic education

The community asked “How else can we initiate girls into womanhood”

  • Identify the circumcisers and sensitize them.
  • Organize community forums on FGM.
  • Sensitize the community on these beliefs of FGM.
  • The Council of elders in the Samburu community is informed, addressed on the way forward and the effects of FGM.
  • The council of elders to come up with a way of making the practice a curse.
  • Female circumcision is outdated. They have to be educated on the effects and the importance of education.
  • Traditional songs and theatre shows
  • Use of social media

Achievements

  • The turnout was great, the community had time to call us and ask questions. We saw the interest of the community in the discussion. There still a perception of fearing the elders because of the curse.
  • The community promised to preach the change that’s desired with the support of willing stakeholders
  • The area chief, ward administrator, and other officials encouraged the community to stop FGM, and promote child education.
  • The elders urged the organization to visit the community radio frequently and have a continuous conversation to change people’s perceptions.

Ruth Harley

Ruth is an opera singer collaborating with women in Kenya using indigenous music to end FGM. She is compiling stories written by End FGM campaigners working with the Global Media Campaign to End FGM.