Wednesday, April 13, 2011

FGM crime ensures a cycle of poverty among my people. just like any other high in crime areas!!

A woman who underwent female genital mutilation at an early age. Now aged 20, she developed complications (obstetric fistula) during birth at Nyeri Provincial General Hospital, last year. Her child died, while her abdominal walls collapsed.

Little Mary Wangwe walked five kilometres from her home to escape from the mutilators.
Just 11 years old, Mary* had expressed her opposition to FGM but her parents would not listen.

They went ahead and organised everything, including food for the feasting that would follow the ceremony.

But Mary thought her future was more important than the rite of passage. So she decided to disappear from home shortly before the traditional mutilators arrived.

She was among more than 400 girls from Kuria West and Kuria East districts staying at the Komotobo Maranatha Mission church , set up by non–governmental organisations as a rescue centre.

In the rescue camps, the girls are told about the dangers of FGM and the spread of HIV/Aids.

Elsewhere across the village, a group of people celebrated with loud drumming after a 13-year-old girl was mutilated against her wishes.

Wearing a loose leso(tradition wrap) and with her face decorated, the victim was sandwiched by the mob singing her praises.

Meanwhile, her elder sisters and brothers were slaughtering three goats and preparing busaa so the clan members could enjoy a feast at sunset.

School holidays usually present Kuria girls with mental trauma and anguish instead of joy and relaxation.

It is a period when the traditional mutilators charge between Sh200(2$) and Sh500(5&) for each FGM crime..

And the mutilators have not been properly sterilising the scissors and razor blades used in this operation in spite of the HIV/Aids scare.

Some of the girls who run away have been forced to face the knife soon after returning home from the rescue centres.(I always say there is need for permanent rescue because this girls always go back and the worse mutilation happens.)

And even those who undergo alternative rites of passage funded by the NGOs have not been spared, in spite of the Government keeping a close watch.(I said it alternative rights of passage is like a pain killer for a day then the girls are mutilated when the NGO people or activists go back to their comfort home or hop a plane.)

Since the children’s departments in most districts have skeleton staff, the matter has not been adequately addressed.

Chiefs from this border district have always condoned Female Genital mutilation (FGM) with some actively taking part in the practice in spite of it having been outlawed.

One girl was rescued after her parents had tied her hands and feet then placed her in a thicket where she was about to be forcefully mutilated in spite of her protests.

The Kuria community has refused to discard FGM in spite of the spirited efforts of NGOs such as Action Aid Kenya and the Government.

The practice has greatly affected girls’ education with most of the initiates being married off by their dowry-hungry parents.(agrrrrrr)

Most girls drop out of school each January after facing the cut because of their subsequent marriage, said education authorities.

Area MP Wilfred Machage commented: “The girls attain a false status of womanhood after facing the knife.
The community must change its attitude or we will forever remain backward.” Dr Machage is asking the locals to allow their daughters to reach 18 years before being subjected to FGM.

“At this age, they shall have completed their Form Four education and will be able to make a sound judgment on the matter. I appeal to my constituents to change with the times,” he said.

The community must realise they will only get out of abject poverty when they educate both boys and girls, Dr Machage explained.(I agree)

Many Kuria parents believe an unmutilated girl is an outcast whose future is doomed.

Yet a study by the Kuria Girl Child Organisation that has been in the front line of fighting FGM in the districts, showed that in spite of mutilating their girls, many Kuria men prefer to marry unmutilated Luo and Luhya women because they were reportedly more enthusiastic about sex.

Some of the elite Kuria families smuggle their daughters to Tanzania to stay with relatives to escape from community pressure to be mutilated.

Others take their daughters to relatives in Tarime, Tanzania to be mutilated, for fear of being arrested in Kenya and charged in court.

The Kuria live on both sides of the border. Whenever schools close for the December holidays, Kuria girls struggle to break away from cultural stereotypes in their pursuit for quality education.

The primary pupils have to contend with many difficulties as they strive to break away from the cage of illiteracy.

They are yet to benefit fully from the free primary education programme introduced by the Narc Government in 2003.

The Government and some NGOs have been supporting their wish for education but the problems remain.

Maureen Chacha* and Jane Ghati* are aged between 14 and 17, but they are already the wives of elderly tobacco farmers in Kehancha division in Kuria West.(PEDOPHILE)

Others are working in the farms with their parents although they were supposed to be in school.

In Mabera division, a provincial administrator dissolved one marriage, between a 14-year-old girl and a 40-year-old widower.(good for the PA)

The man was thrown into the cells for marrying a minor who was neither physically nor psychologically prepared to face the challenges of marriage and child bearing.(good)

Some girls dropped out of primary and secondary schools and are now working as barmaids and house-helps in the nearby towns of Isebania, Migori and Kisii.

Most are the victims of broken marriages into which they were pushed by their parents, eager for dowries.

Girls’ education has been threatened by outdated cultural stereotypes and illiteracy amongst the Kuria.

A survey showed that the introduction of the free primary education encouraged only boys to fill the classrooms. A few girls did enrol but they were married off immediately after facing the knife.:(((.
About 62 per cent of girls who enrolled in primary schools in the two districts did not make it to secondary because of the cultural bias.(this breaks my heart).
“Since Kuria is among the poorest districts in the country, parents opt to educate their boys instead of girls. They believe the latter are just a source of wealth and dowry,” said Mr Lucas Chacha of Action Aid.

National examinations

There are 145 primary and 17 secondary schools in Kuria East and West and most of them are ill–equipped, leading to poor performance in national examinations.

Although Action Aid has been providing information about the benefit of educating girls, illiteracy levels are still high, as is a refusal by parents to change their attitudes, he added.

“We also lack women role models in this district who our girls can envy so they study harder. That is why several organisations have come together to build a Western Kenya Anti-FGM network to enable us to build on the initiatives happening elsewhere”, he said.

Mr Chacha wants the Government to take stern action against parents and guardians who still take their children to the mutilators.

“The State must get tough on the child rights violators. There are not enough children officers in Nyanza who have the mandate and skills to handle child matters,” he said.

A meeting for Kuria elders from both Kenya and Tanzania was held recently with a view to stopping FGM on the basis that it was holding back the community’s social and economic development. It remains to be seen if it will bear fruit.
*The names of the girls have been changed to protect their identities.

Ambassador Lucy S. Mashua, President of Mashua Voice for the Voiceless, International
Assisting and advocating for U.S. refugees and women’s rights
Global Ambassador for Ending Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
Chairperson of the Worldwide Campaign Against FGM
Leading in lobbying for HR 5137: The Girl's Protection Act sponsored by Rep. Joseph Crowley and Rep. Mary Bono Mack.