Female genital mutilation (FGM) in Kenya continues to cause death and unending suffering of especially women and girls. According to the World Health Organization, female genital mutilation is defined as all procedures which involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia and/or injury to the female genital organs, whether for cultural or any other non-therapeutic reasons. The procedure can be incredibly painful, and it can also lead to harmful side effects such as excessive bleeding, genital tissue swelling, fever,
infections, urinary problems, and even death. The need to end this practice is urgent.
While the practice of FGM isn’t limited to Kenya, a report by UNICEF stated that 30 million girls are at risk of being cut within the next decade, like 10 year old Boke Chacha from the Kuria community many girls her age have already been subjected to FGM/C and the pressure to be cut in school and home is mounting every day. The century’s old tradition is deep rooted in culture it’s often believed that cutting of the female genitalia preserves her chastity and a sense of social obligation fuels the continuation of the practice. For the most part genital cutting is done by traditional circumcisers with razors, knives that are rarely sterilized.
More than 125 million girls and women alive today have been subjected to FGM/C in the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East in which it is concentrated. For some the health complications especially during childbirth can be life threatening. This statistic shows how common the practice of FGM is in Kenya Because of this, it is necessary to highlight the role young people can play in totally eradicating the practice of FGM in Kenya.
Speaking out loudly and clearly
Although the Prohibition of FGM Act has been in action since 4th October, 2011, many communities still practice this painful act. Because young people are predominantly affected, they can help end this practice by engaging in aggressive awareness campaigns in rural communities, where cultural beliefs and societal pressure to conform to existing traditional practices force parents to let their girls go through this excruciatingly painful and medically unnecessary procedure.
Highlighting the harmful health implications of FGM to parents and traditional leaders in communities where it is practiced, and explaining that a girl who does not undergo FGM grows up to be healthy woman and no less female!!!! Than a girl who undergoes FGM, would go a long way is changing the mindset of communities that still practice FGM. And encourage girls and women, boys and men speak out loudly and clearly and announce they want this harmful practice abandoned.
Engaging cultural and religious leaders
FGM/C is a violation of a girl’s rights to health, well-being and self-determination. To end FGM in Kenya, young people must engage with those who can sway communities. Young people should engage with cultural and religious leaders to speak out against FGM. In these communities cultural and religious leaders are given enormous respect and weight in Kenyan society. Based on the respect they carry, it would be easier for cultural and religious leaders to convince parents and the community to stop the practice of FGM.
Additionally, young people should go directly into schools especially in rural areas and talk to students, especially girls, about the dangers of FGM. Since it is girls who are affected, such visits should be led by a young woman, or perhaps even a female victim of FGM who could share her personal experience.
Seek government support!!
The need for Government support and strong political commitment to push for serious implementation of the Anti FGM Act will go a long for young people to end FGM in Kenya in one generation. This will be a step in the right direction as Goal 5 of the new sustainable development goals (SDGs) seeks to achieve gender equality, empower all women and girls, with a key target of ending FGM and all other harmful traditional practices. Young people should therefore seek to lead the way in participating in development, gender, and health issues, and they can lead the way to ending the practice of FGM as well as hold the Government to account on the implementation of the post Development Goals