To beat Female Genital Mutilation and cut, there must be a positive attitude shift by men and women and girls and boys alike against the vice.
With this premise, The Girl Generation support to African Led Movement (TGG-ALM) to end Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting (FGM/C) programme by ActionAid International Kenya has targeted pupils through the boys’ and girls’ forums across nine schools in Garissa County. These schools are situated miles away from Garissa town and in vulnerable, hard-to-reach areas.
*Adow, a pupil at Guyo Primary School (five kilometers from his village), started attending boys’ forums in 2021, and several sessions later, his voice saved his younger sister, *Farhya, from FGM/C. He hails from Munyij village, an area that is lagging in terms of socio-economic development. Munyij is predominantly occupied by the Vulnerable and Marginalized Group (VMG) called Waliwaanas. In Adow’s community, FGM/C and early (child) marriage has been the norm.
In the case of Adow, 15, who together with his two younger sisters were in the custody of their aunt, got wind that his guardian and two other aunties were hutching a plan to have Farhya cut. He sat with his aunt and convinced her to abort her mission.
“During the April school holidays, my aunt wanted to cut my little sister *Farhya. I hadz overheard her plan with my other two aunts. On the same evening, I approached my aunt, told her about the effects FGM/C would have on Farhya, and tried convincing her to abandon the plans. My aunt was afraid of stigma from the community if she had not cut my sister. The following morning, I went to Mama Sahara, a Kamuthe Women’s Rights Network member.
“Mama Sahara, two other members of the women’s network and the chief came to our home. My aunt was warned against subjecting Farhya to FGM/C. My aunt heeded their advice and is now held in high esteem, a role model in Munyij village.” Said Adow.
He noted that he gained the confidence to challenge FGM/C through the boys’ forum, saying:
“I spoke out and rescued my sister. Now my sister is free from this harm. I am willing to continue protecting the girls of my community through my voice and actions.”
Adow continues to say:
“In school, I get to speak against the practice of FGM/C during school debates and key international days like International Day for zero tolerance to FGM/C and the Day of African Child. The girls are our sisters. In this forum, we have been taught not to let anyone harm them. I will protect my sisters. My aunt has now joined the women’s rights network. Together with her, we will continue to fight against FGM/C and other harmful cultural practices that women and girls in school and my community go through.
“I am happy now because I see men and boys in my community advocate against FGM/C. I am also happy that girls and women are getting more support to stop cutting the girls from us, boys, and men, who are the main decision-makers in our community. It is my wish that FGM/C will come to an end in my community,” future.”
Boys’ and girls’ forums in the targeted schools feature nine to 18-year-old pupils with 14 patrons overseeing them. They engage the boys and girls separately using the forums manuals to facilitate weekly sessions.
These forums are safe spaces for the pupils; they learn more about themselves, grow their skills and knowledge and interact with their peers. The forums are inclusive, allowing them to voice their opinions and concerns.
Through these forums, girls and boys increase their knowledge and awareness of the effects FGM/C has on the girls and women. The forums aim to positively shift the attitudes and beliefs of boys and girls against the practice of FGM/C in their communities.
The TGG-ALM programme has recognized young boys’ role in ending FGM/C. Adow is an example of how the boys’ forums in schools have increased the agency and willingness of boys to support girls and women to end FGM/C in their communities.
Author: Zamzam Hassan, Project Coordinator the Girl Generation Programme . Mary Consolata Makokha, Communications Officer ActionAid Kenya
Edited by Ezra Kiriago ,Communications Coordinator ActionAid Kenya.