In this case study, we’ll explore the role Kongamanos play in helping communities eradicate FGM/C. It will also showcase the story of two fifteen-year-old girls who were saved from FGM/C in Longopito, a community nearby Tuale village where a Kongamano was carried out. Additionally, this case study will evaluate the successes, lessons learned, modifications made, and difficulties encountered throughout the community Kongamanos organized under the Girl Generation Support to African Led Movement to End Female Genital Mutilation (ALM-FGM) programme. The programme is implemented by ActionAid International Kenya (AAIK) in Isiolo county, Oldonyiro, Kiina and Burat wards.
The dialogues in Kongamanos aim to educate participants and make them aware of the protection mechanisms in place to allow women and girls to live freely without being subjected to harmful cultures like FGM/C. Women’s rights networks, young women breaking barriers, and men for change champions frequently facilitate the Kongamanos, which encourage open discussions through reflection, storytelling, and question-and-answer sessions. The dialogues held through the Kongamanos have created a space for women, men, and local administrators to hold open discussions and examine the impact of FGM/C on women and girls. As a result, over 450 community members in Oldonyiro ward have participated in the Kongamanos and educated other members back home. It is through the Kongamanos that the community members have committed to protect women and girls from any form of violence, especially FGM/C. The community members are also linked with women champions from the Women Rights Network (WRNs) to report any progress that communities make on protecting thegirls from FGM/C. It is also important to note that the Kongamanos held by ALM-FGM programme are girl centred.
Joseph sikoli Lesingirat, a young man from Longopito, attended a Kongamano organised in Tuale village which educated the participants about FGM/C, its effects, and mechanisms for protecting girls/women from harmful cultural practises. Longopito is a hard-to-reach village located in Oldonyiro ward, Isiolo county. It is inhabited by the Samburu community, which practices Female Genital Mutilation (FGM/C) at a prevalence of 86% (KDHS 2014).
On December 2022, two girls were rescued from going through FGM/C in Longopito by Joseph Sikoli. This was during the school holidays. Girls are vulnerable to FGM/C in holidays especially when they close schools. The two girls who are 15-year-old from Joseph’s neighborhood were ready to undergo FGM/C. When Joseph learned, this was planned to happen, he went to the area chief to report the incident. After speaking with the area chief, he went on to speak to the parents of the girls to enlighten them about the harmful effects of FGM/C. He later called Amina, a WRN champion who facilitated the Kongamano which he attended to update her about the incident. Joseph said:
‘Through the education I received during a Kongamano held by ALM-FGM programme through AAIK, I am now aware of the effects of FGM/C on women and girls. I have committed myself to protect them and remain vigilant in my community to end FGM/C. I believe that men, too, can contribute to the elimination of FGM/C’.
What has changed due to the Kongamanos?
- It is a platform from different age groups and contexts to dialogue and exchange ideas on how the community will work to end FGM/C.
- Communities have reviewed FGM/C beliefs, norms, taboos, culture, benefits and how they want to end FGM/C in their communities.
- Women and young people with low confidence and who fear engaging male elders have had their voices heard.
- The community is starting to take responsibility and accountability in ending Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) and FGM/C.
- There is increased understanding of FGM/C and how to end it through transformational processes by changing the negative social norms and attitude.
- Girls are being rescued from going through FGM/C by people who attend the Kongamanos.
- Increased sensitization and increased awareness on FGM/C among all age groups.
- Young men are vigilant and report cases of FGM/C and other violence against women and girls within their community
- Community members have increased capacity in the understanding the importance of protecting and safeguarding women and children
- Young girls are now more confident in speaking Infront of elders about ending FGM/C which was once aa taboo subject
- Girls are at the centre of Kongamanos. During the forums, the girls are given a priority to speak in the forums and the conversations.
- The Kongamanos have helped community members to raise their fears, doubts, questions and enabled them to critically reflect on the wrong beliefs which perpetuate the practice and challenge FGM/C for the better.
Emerging lessons and adaptive Learnings
- To sustain and motivate community conversations on ending FGM/C, the facilitators allow the community to discuss good cultures within their community and bad cultures that have been stopped and those that are ongoing.
- Different age groups are given an opportunity to engage and dialogue on FGM/C and other topics this increases confidence especially among young people.
- Community conversations is a key approach in engaging communities and encourage the collective abandonment of FGM/C and child marriage. When the communities come together to address identified common problems, the issue is given the attention and long-lasting solution.
- The dialogues held in communities have given young girls and women opportunity and the confidence to directly challenge men on patriarchy, GBV and FGM/C.
- Elders now recognise that decisions should be made by involving the entire community, rather than just the council of elders. This is something they wouldn’t do easily in the past.
- It is not easy to shift community perception and beliefs, especially those that are deep rooted in religious and cultural beliefs. However, we have been consistently engaging the communities in anti-FGM/C conversations. This may change their perceptions within time.
- There is limited funding for social mobilization and behaviour changes activities to challenge deep rooted negative norms. For example, some community members who practice FGM/C shift to other villages where enforcement is weak, for the fear of being reported and arrested by ALM movement partners in the communities. It would be effective if all villages within the county of operation would be included in the programme activities. This would discourage cross border movement to practice FGM/C.
- There have been instances of conflict -banditry that led to cancelling a series of meetings. We have been keen to conduct activities in places that have minimal conflict issues.
- Increase the number of Kongamanos.
- Map out more hard to reach areas to conduct Kongamanos.
- Increase awareness of the referral mechanism.
- Chiefs should provide residents with a phone number that is readily available in case of an emergency.
Authors: Diram Duba (Project Coordinator, ALM-FGM Programme Isiolo. Teresiah Warui, ALM-FGM Programme Coordinator). Edited by Ezra Kiriago (Communications Coordinator AAIK)