Finding Voice and Choice through Girls Forums

In the Somali community of Garissa County, Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) has long been ingrained as a cultural tradition. However, a glimmer of hope emerged when ActionAid International Kenya, through The Girl Generation Programme, initiated boys’ and girls’ forums in schools in Fafi Sub-County. These forums aimed to shift beliefs about FGM/C and ultimately end the harmful practice by equipping learners with knowledge, awareness, and confidence.

Abdia (not her real name), a 10-year-old grade four pupil at Kamuthe Primary School, emerged as a beacon of change after participating in these forums. Despite growing up in a community where FGM/C is considered a rite of passage into womanhood, Abdia’s* life took an unexpected turn when her mother encouraged her to join the girls’ forum in 2023.

“Growing up in a community where female genital mutilation (FGM) is considered a rite of passage into womanhood, and it is often carried out without a girl’s consent. It feels like an inescapable fate for many girls, including me. However, my life took an unexpected turn when my mother joined the Kamuthe Women Rights Network where she learnt of the girls’ forum in primary schools, and she encouraged me to join the one in my school in 2023.

“I timidly joined the girls’ forum, not knowing what to expect. It was a space where we could openly talk about FGM/C, its consequences, and our dreams beyond this practice. I felt a glimmer of hope for the first time,” registered Abdia.

In this safe space, Abdia* and her peers openly discussed FGM/C, its consequences, and their aspirations beyond practice. Through these discussions, she gained a deeper understanding of FGM/C, consent, and the power of her voice.

Participating in interschool debates on FGM/C further bolstered Abdia’s confidence as she became a vocal advocate for change. With each debate, she challenged her community’s beliefs and urged others to reconsider the practice of FGM/C.

“When I was urged to participate in my first interschool debate on the topic of FGM, I was initially terrified. How was I to publicly speak about this harmful practice that my community has held on to for so long? But with the support of my peers and girl’ forum patrons, I began researching and building my arguments up. Standing on the debate stage was nerve-wracking, but as I spoke about the need to end FGM, my confidence surged. I could see the impact my words had on the audience, and it was empowering. After several sessions of the girls’ forum, the urge to protect other girls in my community grew. I no longer hesitated to express my thoughts in school, at home, or within my community. I feel like a different person, a confident advocate for change.”

“As more girls like me shifted their beliefs and attitudes about FGM through these forums and debates, we started to challenge our community’s beliefs of practicing FGM/C. We speak to our families, friends, and neighbors, urging them to reconsider the practice of FGM/C.


Thanks to Abdia’s courage and the collective efforts of girls like her, attitudes towards FGM/C began to shift. She witnessed firsthand the impact of girls finding their voices and uniting for change. In 2023, girls who were once lined up for the cut were spared, marking a significant victory for the community.

“Through our collective efforts, we began to see a shift in attitudes, and girls who were lined up for the cut in 2023 were not subjected to it. When girls find their voices and unite, they can be powerful agents of change,” she continued.

Abdia’s journey exemplifies the transformative power of girls’ forums and debates in ending FGM/C. As she continues to speak out, she believes that her advocacy will have a lasting impact on her community, empowering girls to embrace their voices and choices.

Author:  Zamzam Hassan, Project Coordinator the Girl Generation Programme . Mary Consolata Makokha, Communications Officer ActionAid Kenya 

Edited by Ezra Kiriago ,Communications Coordinator ActionAid Kenya.

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