Thursday, January 6, 2011

Two mothers among 168 girls were Mutilated in Marakwet East and Pokot Central districts on December 7th 2010

Two women, including a mother of four, were among 168 teenage girls mutilated in Marakwet East and Pokot Central districts on Tuesday.
Nineteen girls were the first to go through the outlawed rite at Tigenuo Village in Kombases sub-location in the Kerio Valley.

They were mutilated early in the morning, following observation of the position of the moon, a traditional indicator.

A 37-year-old mother of two, who had resisted the rite, gave in at Karamwar Village after her husband allegedly demanded that she be mutilated or he would not continue living with a “child” any more.

Another mother of four, 39, consented to the mutilation in Chepsigot Village in Kerio Valley, saying she had been ridiculed for far too long.

A woman who is not mutilated in the area is not recognised as an adult.

The mother joined teenage initiates in seclusion where they will stay until mid-January this month, this year, when they will graduate.

The other initiates were girls aged between nine and 11 years, from villages in the area, even though mutilation of girls is banned by the government.

A number of girls fled their homes for fear of being forcibly subjected to the rite of passage.

Lobby groups accused the local district children’s department of doing little to protect the rights of innocent and under-age children!!! yes I agree shame on them.

However, the Marakwet district children’s officer, Mr Peter Kutere was, not available for comment. probably hiding because of guilt or he doesn't care!!!!

Ambassador Lucy .s .Mashua President of Mashua's voice for the voiceless International
Assisting refugees in the US and representation in advocacy
The Global Ambassador for fighting Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and standing up for Women’s Rights.
And the Chairperson of a worldwide campaign against FGM.
Leading in lobbying for the HR5137 The Girl's Protection Act sponsored by Joseph Crowley and Mary Bono Mack.

More than 2,500 boys and girls underwent Genital mutilation in the month of December just in two district in Kenya.

About 2,500 boys and girls have been mutilated in Kuria West and East districts since the beginning of the month of December last year.

About 2,000 boys and 500 girls, some as young as nine years old, were initiated during the first two weeks of the month-long traditional rite of passage.

Parents and guardians have been playing hide-and-seek with the provincial administration and police after the government declared mutilation of girls illegal.

At least eight parents were being sought yesterday after they forced their daughters to face the knife.

Leaders and government officials led by area MP Wilfred Machage have vehemently opposed the mutilation of girls, commonly referred to as Female Genital Mutilation, and have vowed to bring the perpetrators to book.

The leaders say the tradition had retarded socio-economic development in the region.

More than 400 girls have sought refuge at two rescue camps set up by the government in collaboration with non-governmental organisations and community and faith-based organisations to shelter girls threatened with forced mutilation.

But there are fears that the efforts to save girls from mutilation could be fruitless because in previous years, almost three quarters of the girls who underwent alternative rite of passage training in such rescue camps were forced by parents or guardians to undergo mutilation on returning home.(this methods hardly work after all the girls return home eventually after all is said and all the FGM activists goes home.)

Although the Children’s Act outlaws mutilation of girls below 18 years of age, parents from this community have continued to indiscriminately mutilate their young daughters with impunity.

For the past two weeks, mutilators have been doing a roaring business, charging up to Sh500 per initiate.

NGOs including Action Aid Kenya, Adventist Development Relief Agency (Adra) and World Vision are sponsoring the alternative rite of passage training at the two rescue camps at Komotobo and St Teresa’s primary boarding school at a cost of more than Sh3 million so sad that all this money goes in the drain.

Adra programme coordinator Mr Robert Onsando said Fgm would take time to be eradicated because it was part of the community’s culture.(come on this is not culture it is pure crime !)

Please NGOs stop wasting money on this alternative rites of passage this girls always goes back home to the villages while you pack your belongings and leave...they go back and they are mutilated as the parents threaten to disown them not pay their school fees or peer group stigma discrimination. instead invest on tougher laws.
As I recall this was once a village that 20 boys could not urinate or walk for months after circumcision went wrong and they had to be flown overseas for reconstructive surgeries:(.

Ambassador Lucy .s .Mashua President of Mashua's voice for the voiceless International
Assisting refugees in the US and representation in advocacy
The Global Ambassador for fighting Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and standing up for Women’s Rights.
And the Chairperson of a worldwide campaign against FGM.
Leading in lobbying for the HR5137 The Girl's Protection Act sponsored by Joseph Crowley and Mary Bono Mack.

At least 300 girls underwent FGM in the Christmas week in Kenya.

At least 270 girls were lined up for mutilation in Marakwet East and Pokot Central districts in on the Christmas week:(.
Though the number of girls undergoing the rite of passage has significantly dropped over the past few years, most of them are taking part voluntarily.

After the cut, scores of the girls who may not proceed to secondary school, will be married off to already waiting suitors after coming out of seclusion in mid-January this month.

A crusader against female circumcision, Ms Lilian Plapan of Setat Women’s Group, has called for an end to the practice.

“We want chiefs in the respective villages to stop the cut since the lives of young girls are going to be wasted,” she said.

Mrs Plapan, who visited Propoi Girls Secondary School at the weekend, urged girls to identify the talents that they fit in and develop them through education.

About 74 girls in Kapsogom, Kachenyut, Kapchemila, Kakisoo, Tinyar and Kasui villages will be initiated in Kerio Valley from Friday.

Another 86 will be undergoing the rite in Sibou, Kotut, and Kapsiren villages in the second weekend of December. Another 100 in the far flung Arpolo, Embobut and Endo-Kaben locations in Pokot Central and Marakwet East will also join the queue.

Only 10 girls may be circumcised the same Friday in Kamariny and Karamwar villages neighbouring the home of local MP Linah Kilimo who campaigns against the rite.

“last year’s initiation went on as scheduled by the mutilators given that traditional signs have been observed... these include the position of stars, the weather pattern and the year’s harvest,” said Mzee Kipkaino Wero-Merei, 71.

“Most of those that were lined up to face the knife fled their homes to rescue centres in 2006 for fear of being mutilated by force but are now willing,” said another opponent of the mutilation, Ms Rose Kilimo.

Apart from curiosity to graduate into womanhood, Ms Kilimo, claimed the girls opted to get mutilated in a bid to please their parents after engaging them in four years of rebellion.

Ms Kilimo said: “This lot comprises the 2010 Kenya Certificate of Primary Education candidates who have come of age and would want to be loyal to their parents”

Some parents had quietly vowed not to pay even a cent for secondary school fees to any girl who refused to undergo the old age custom of mutilation.(Black mail:()

in Summary
They include schoolgirls who had fled to rescue centres and had alternative right of passage in 2006(right after I left) because of forced mutilation
Please tell me what would you do if your parents black mail you into robbing your womanhood?
Another sad notice that things haven't changed enough yet! How "voluntary" is it when the parents refuse school fees, the chiefs condone and promote it, and the girls have few options but to give in? This practice needs to be eradicated eventually, and any assistance given to girls to change their options needs to be. If there are laws that can be used to punish those who perform this ritual--- use them! The parents need to be shamed to allow this damage to their daughters! Breaks my heart...

Ambassador Lucy .s .Mashua President of Mashua's voice for the voiceless International
Assisting refugees in the US and representation in advocacy
The Global Ambassador for fighting Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and standing up for Women’s Rights.
And the Chairperson of a worldwide campaign against FGM.
Leading in lobbying for the HR5137 The Girl's Protection Act sponsored by Joseph Crowley and Mary Bono Mack.

One blade,knife,piece of broken glass, a scared girl, lots of blood the Rape of childhood

The three young girls shuffle along, their faces a mask of fear and anxiety as they trail their headteacher into her office. Two of them, barefoot and skinny, are in nursery school, while the third one, in plastic sandals and school uniform, is in Standard One.

Once inside, their faces crease into innocent smiles in response to their headteacher’s words of endearment and encouragement and, albeit shyly, they extend they tiny hands in shaky greetings as they are introduced to their visitors.

Introductions done, the girls retreat back to their little shells, the smiles gone. That was all they could afford, all the courage they could muster. Deep inside them, they are still grappling with a mental struggle so huge it could fell the strongest of souls.

The scars of their torment are yet to heal, and the blot left behind by their collective ordeal is as evident in their faces as it is in their interactions with their peers.

Brutal, mandatory rite

At the tender age of less than seven years, these girls have joined thousands of others across (especially) the northern frontier who have gone through a brutal yet mandatory rite of passage: circumcision. The activists in this part of the world, however, prefer to call the torment Female Genital Mutilation.

And wherever the word ‘mutilation’ appears, you can be sure it is used to describe a scene full of tears, struggles and blood.

We traced these little angels to their humble Furaha Primary School, buried deep inside Village Nine, one of the 10 dusty hamlets that form the Bura Irrigation Scheme settlements.

Located some 370 kilometres north of Mombasa along the Garsen-Garissa highway, Bura falls within the Tana County, which comprises Tana Delta, Tana River and Tana North districts, and is home to the Malakote, Wailuana, Munyoyaya, Wardhei, Orma and Wata sub-tribes.

The communities here have resolutely clung to FGM as a rite of passage for girls, making the region one of the best known last bastions of this brutal, outdated and illegal practice.

The two nursery school girls, whose names are withheld to protect their identity and cushion them from any form of stigma, were among seven that were subjected to the FGM by a grandmother in her smoky mud hut inside Village Nine in early August.

Time to heal

The villagers chose the April, August and December school holidays for the activity as the children have time to heal before they resume learning.

“When they do it during the holidays, it is difficult for teachers to know. They ensure the children have already healed by the time they return to school,” said the school’s headteacher, Ms Margaret Githire.

This way, the matter is kept from the knowledge of teachers as the girls do not miss school and, after their ordeal, resume class and continue with life as if nothing has happened.

This time round, however, luck eluded a group of 10 parents, the circumciser and relatives who had turned up to witness the event.

Shortly after the circumciser finished her gruesome job and laid the girls in her room to recover — where they were to endure weeks of agony — armed policemen stormed the compound and arrested all. The officers from Bura Police Station had been tipped about the ritual and tactfully left their car some kilometres away, then sneaked into the passage ceremony.
After arresting the adults, they took the minors to the Hola District Hospital, where they were immediately admitted for treatment.

Out of the 10 suspects, eight — among them mothers of the girls and the elderly grandmother who carried out the circumcision — pleaded guilty to the charge and were sentenced to serve varying durations of community service, while the two who denied are still awaiting the determination of their case.(come on community service for the rape of childhood and womanhood give me a break:()

After weeks of treatment and convalescence, the girls were released, went back home and have since resumed learning in their different schools. But this is only one of the few instances when the law has come to the rescue of the victims, albeit belatedly, and brought justice their way.
Multiple interviews with sources within the villages across the three districts reveal that scores of young girls are seasonally subjected to FGM, but little comes to light due to a conspiracy of silence among family members.

The interviews unearthed deep-seated cultural stereotyping that has served to buttress FGM into the society.

Women, and particularly the old grandmothers, have been accused of fuelling the act as they are directly involved in the entire process, from identifying potential initiates, organising the rite and taking care of the convalescing girls.

And it is all aimed at making the targeted girl a complete woman; one that would not be shunned by her peers or, later in life, her husband.

Khadija Maro, a mother to one of the seven girls, says this is one reason why a grandmother would pull all stops to ensure her grand-daughter is “cut”.

As a bonus, a grandmother who oversees circumcision of her granddaughter(s) is also guaranteed higher social recognition and the prestige that comes with it, she adds.

“The traditional rule is that if a woman does not circumcise her granddaughters, she is cut off from her group,” adds Ms Maro of this cultural predisposition that smacks of pure female jingoism.

Girls taunt peers

Girls who have undergone the rite also taunt their uncircumcised colleagues, fuelling the stigmatisation that drives many to embrace FGM.

But the women are also quick to point an accusing finger at their menfolk, who, they say, would not marry or allow their sons to marry a girl who is not circumcised.

“When a man marries a woman who is not circumcised, his colleagues also taunt him. The woman also becomes a subject of ridicule. These are the things that many opt to avoid by allowing their daughters to be circumcised,” says another villager, Ms Asha Abdullahi, 27 and a mother of five.

But these are the stereotypes that anti-FGM campaigners want to stamp out as they take the bull by the horns in a bid to rescue the girl-child from this painful and outdated cultural practice.

Sadia Hussein, 21, is the face of the anti-FGM campaign in the three districts of Tana, and says time has come for the Kenyan society to unequivocally reject FGM, and for communities still embracing it to be told, in no uncertain terms, to discard it.

The married mother of one girl is herself a victim of the same and does not hide her loathing. To her, FGM is not only a tool for subjugating women, but also an unnecessary painful act.

“After going through it all, I resolved that I will never allow my daughter to experience it,” she told the DN2 team in Hola town, the base of her FGM campaigns.

Women champions
Sadia is particularly bitter that it is the womenfolk who champion the practice. She also had a feel of the pain at seven years, and the episode is still fresh in her mind, the passage of time notwithstanding.

“My father did not want me to go but my mother, and my grandmother insisted that I must be circumcised until he relented. They were joined by five other women early one morning, then, together, escorted me to a nearby forest.”

As one woman planted her palm against Sadia’s mouth to prevent her from screaming, others spread her legs and pinned her down with their weight, allowing the circumciser to carry out her work unhindered.

From her recollection, the violation took about half an hour, but it was like eternity. Wave upon wave of agony swept over her as the sharp razor blade dug into her most intimate part, drawing flesh and torrents of blood.
“Before the experience, I had been sweet-talked into embracing it with pride, believing it would make me a whole woman. But the pain made me decide that it was not worth it,” Sadia narrates, her face burning with indignation.

So serious were her injuries that she was bedridden for two months. All this time, the only medicine she was given were herbal concoctions, some of which were used to clean the wounds.

Though the blade wielder has since died, Sadia says the central role women play in administering the cut has made her focus on them with her message.

The hands of a mother are meant to impart love and affection, not needless, excruciating pain, she says.

“I am shocked that it is mothers who hold you down to be cut just because it is a tradition,” she says, adding that arguments in favour of FGM, such as that it helps girls preserve their virginity by lessening erotic feelings, are misplaced.

“I have seen circumcised girls engaging in prostitution and having children whose fathers they cannot tell. The feelings are in the minds and if one is inclined to go astray, circumcision alone cannot prevent that.”

Her efforts attracted the attention of government departments and non-governmental organisations such as Action-Aid, which have since been giving support to her outreach programmes that target schools, villages and other forums.

In 2007, Sadia founded the Tana River Women Against FGM and HIV/Aids Group, and has since teamed up with others such as Women for Peace, Maendeleo ya Wanawake and Sauti ya Wanawake to mount a united front against FGM.

Speakers at a meeting attended by representatives of these groups concurred with Sadia, saying the practice exposed girls to all forms of traumatic experiences, among them complications during childbirth later in adulthood.

“A good number of women who have been circumcised have to undergo a second operation while giving birth to enable the child pass. We must stop this practice,” Ms Fatuma Galgalo, chairperson of Women for Peace, told the meeting.

A resident, Mr Hassan Barisa, agreed, citing a recent case in Garsen where a young woman on the throes of giving birth died due to complications arising from FGM-related deformities in her genitalia.

“The child could not pass out due to the narrowness of the passage and she died as we watched. The doctor at the hospital could not do anything as only a Caesarian Section would have helped,” said Mr Barisa.

Medical complications

Dr Fred Mokano, the Hola District Hospital medical superintendent, says FGM exposes girls to a host of medical problems, particularly if they have pre-existing conditions such as anaemia and diabetes.

The unhygienic conditions under which the villagers carry out the circumcision expose the girls to many risks as well, among them that of HIV infection.

To eliminate other infections, girls brought to the hospitals are given antibiotics to ward off bacterial infections. For HIV, medics administer a form of medication referred to as Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP), which, however, is only effective if the victims are brought to hospital within 72 hours after exposure.

“The problem is that some of the girls are brought to hospital even a week after the incident. In such cases, we only deal with treating the wounds until they heal,” Dr Mokano said.

With the practice now outlawed, many girls are suffering in their hidden villages as parents fear they would be arrested should they bring them to hospital, he adds.

A senior education officer in Tana River District says the vice is to blame for the decline in the number of girls in upper primary classes across the three districts.

The officer, who asked not to be named as he is not allowed to comment on education policy issues, said whereas girl:boy enrolment is nearly 50:50 in lower primary, the numbers change in favour of the boys as a good number of girls drop out to get married, more so after mutilation.

Sadia Hussein is just one among tens of thousands of girls who are herded into smoky mud huts every year to face a mutilators’s blade. Hidden deep in the remotest part of Bura is a hamlet curiously name Village Nine, and it is here that the harrowing, bloody tale of Sadia and her unfortunate peers begins:(

Ambassador Lucy .s .Mashua President of Mashua's voice for the voiceless International
Assisting refugees in the US and representation in advocacy
The Global Ambassador for fighting Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and standing up for Women’s Rights.
And the Chairperson of a worldwide campaign against FGM.
Leading in lobbying for the HR5137 The Girl's Protection Act sponsored by Joseph Crowley and Mary Bono Mack.