The Girl Generation support to Africa Led Movement to end Female Genital Mutilation programme scaled to Garissa County in its second year of operation. Kongamanos are among the interventions used by ActionAid International Kenya to implement the programme. The Kongamanos are held in hard-to-reach areas that are hard to reach and are Female Genital Mutilation or Cutting (FGM/C) hotspots. In this case study, we explore the progress that Jambele community has made in ending FGM/C. We unpack the achievements, challenges, adaptive learnings, and recommendations.
Jambele is a small village located in Bura ward, Garissa County. It is located approximately 110kms away from Garissa town. Jambele is one of the villages in Bura ward that has lagged in economic and social development. It is majorly occupied by the Somali community who rely on pastoralism and a few practices farming. The people who reside in Jambele, practice Female Genital Mutilation or cutting (FGM/C) on young girls as a tradition.
For the first time the residents of Jambele community participated Kongamanos that intended to end FGM/C. The Kongamanos were held in a series of three. The first Kongamano addressed the issues that women face in terms of violence and women rights. The second Kongamano unpacked FGM/C, its effects to girls and other integrated retrogressive practices that are associated with it like forced and early marriages. The third Kongamano discussed the case managements and actions the participants intend take to protect the girls from FGM/C. The facilitators ensured the voices and concerns of girls are heard, prioritized, addressed, and implemented. This is by giving the young girls an opportunity to speak during the dialogues and centering the conversations around the girls. The Kongamano activities provided a space for women, men, and local administrators(chief), elders and religious leaders to collectively have open conversations, discuss and analyze the impact of FGM/C on women and girls and to also come up with local solutions to ending FGM/C in their communities. While expressing the reasons why the community practices FGM/C, two participants said the following:
’’We practice FGM/C because of our men, they don’t marry girls who are not circumcised in the community. If they marry a girl who is not circumcised, they chase her away and embarrass her referring to her as a woman who has been sleeping around with other men and unchaste. It’s also a culture and we are guided by our culture.’’
’’ If our ancestors practised the cut and they lived a normal life, why should it be a problem now?’’
The facilitators played an important role to enlighten the communities on things that are not discussed in the Kongamanos by the participants or even by giving new information that they may not know. For example, the rights of girls and women, health complications that arise from FGM/C and referral pathways. They also encourage participants from different contexts and ages to participate in conversations. The participants had lively discussions. On one of the dialogues, an elder reflected on the impact of the Kongamanos to him. He pointed out that.
’’Before I never paid attention to the procedure of doing FGM/C but now I want to thank Maka (the facilitator) and ActionAid Kenya for enlightening us on this harmful practice. During the cutting season, our wives asked for money for the process, and we provided the money not knowing that our girls are being mutilated. I am now here, wondering why our women, the ones who are the mother of girls are still perpetuating this painful practice to our girls despite knowing the how painful the process is to the girls.’’
What has changed due to the community kongamanos?
A few days after the kongamano sessions, a religious leader in Jambele came across a cutter who was about to carry out the practice. He immediately intervened the situation and convinced the cutter not to cut the girl. During this incident, the religious leaders reached out to the facilitator, Maka, informing her of the incident and their action.
Out of the Kongamanos, the participants in Jambele, Bura Ward have come up with the following activities:
- Weekly mosque sermons on ending FGM
- Teaching women and girls about FGM not being a mandatory religious activity.
- Intergenerational sessions between young people and elders.
- The community members have formed SGBV working group where they have open discussions, sensitisations, and campaigns against this harmful practice
- Community leaders have started to take responsibility and accountability in ending Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) and FGM/C.
- There is increased awareness on FGM/C, this can be seen through follow ups, reports and feedback.
- Community members have increased capacity in the understanding the importance of protecting and safeguarding women and children at the community level
- The rights of girls are now protected and safeguarded.
- The community members are now openly discussing and reflecting on the wrong traditional norms which perpetuate the practice and challenge FGM/C.
- Kongamanos have given girls and women the platform to directly contribute to societal matters in a patriarchal society. This was a challenge on the very first day of the three-day kongamano activity in Jambele. However, by the third Kongamano session, women and girls could freely express their opinions.
- Community elders and religious leaders are the key approach to engaging community members and encourage the collective abandonment of FGM/C.
- Shifting community deep rooted attitude, perception, religious and traditional beliefs is a slow process and takes time.
- The community members in Jambele mostly being pastoralist, some of them were away during this activity as they had migrated to look for pasture. This is a challenge because some of the cutters were among those that had migrated.
- There is need to have training session for women survivors.
- There is need to support the formation and strengthening of working technical groups in communities after the Kongamanos.
- There is need to train more religious leaders FGM/C.
Authors: Zamzam Hussein (Project Coordinator, ALM-FGM Programme Garissa. Teresiah Warui, ALM-FGM Programme Coordinator). Edited by Ezra Kiriago (Communications Coordinator AAIK)