, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 5 – As the world readies to mark the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), stakeholders leading the fight against the cultural practice in Kenya gathered in Nairobi to celebrate a decline in the prevalence rate of 8 percent.
According to AMREF Health Africa Chief Executive Officer Dr Githinji Gitahi, cases of FGM in women and girls between 15 and 48 years reduced from 35 percent to 27 percent in 2014.
“It’s not all gloom. We cannot say that we are still fighting in the wilderness. We are still seeing success,” he asserted.
The reduction in FGM prevalence however did not mean that Kenya was out of the woods yet since the target is to ensure no girl or woman is cut.
“But that 21 percent is too many girls being cut. We have to go to beyond zero percent,” Gitahi warned.
AMREF Health, Africa which has been among the organisations spearheading the fight against the deeply enshrined culture, in 2009 introduced the Alternative Rite of Passage (ARP).
It is a practice that recognises FGM is a cultural issue that can appropriately be addressed through a cultural solution which involves affected communities at all levels.
Gitahi celebrated that with close engagement with communities, 9,515 girls had gone through ARP.
ARP allows girls to undergo all processes of FGM minus the hazardous physical cut of the female genitalia.
“We have offered an alternative so that we are saying, we respect the culture, we know that the Maasai, the Samburu and others have a culture and we have to respect that. So what we are offering is an alternative that is cultural sensitive,” he explained.
Shiluni Shirim, a 12 year-old beneficiary of ARP shared her joy of winning the Miss Oloitoktok title which advocates for girls to embrace education by denouncing FGM and early marriages.
“I can be a doctor without the cut. I can be a president without the cut,” Shirim said as she hoped other girls would be saved from the cut to help them propel in their education.
For Head of Anti-FGM board, Jebii Kilimo, the fight against FGM will be won if the law prohibiting the practice is combined with education.
“Education on dangers of FGM has to go hand in hand with the law. If one is not there, one will not work. The two are like wings, for a bird to fly it needs the two wings,” she explained.
She further urged for employment of comprehensive approaches which include leaders and members of the community in fighting the female cut.
In certain communities, politicians and local leaders for fear of support by their people are unwilling to publicly denounce FGM.
Prosecuting Counsel Peter Mwenda agreed that for the law to work in fighting the female cut, stakeholders should work together to make communities understand why it exists.
He said it will help in prosecuting perpetrators who continue to violate the legislation.
According to Mwenda, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions was handling over 150 FGM cases.
Though there had been over 20 convictions, Mwenda pointed at challenges which include unwillingness by victims and relatives to testify.
“In most cases, witnesses are relatives. They interfere with each other and they are influenced. As the case continues you realise they forgave each other,” Mwenda explained.