, THARAKA, Kenya, Feb 11 – First Lady Margaret Kenyatta has urged communities practicing female genital mutilation (FGM) and early marriages to discard the retrogressive practices as they denied women full control over their bodies.
The First Lady said in certain parts of the country, the situation has deteriorated to such an extent that women and girls who have not undergone the cut face rejection.
Many others, she added, fail to get marriage partners if they refuse to undergo the practice.
The First Lady regretted that the many girls married off early are entering motherhood at a tender age denying them a chance to get an education.
“Early Marriages which deny them a chance to get an education, ultimately increasing their vulnerability to poverty and sexually transmitted diseases,” she said.
The First Lady spoke at Kathwana primary school when she presented the 19th fully equipped Beyond Zero mobile clinic to Tharaka Nithi County government.
“If we are to embrace a future that is truly progressive, we must re-look at practices such as FGM that compromise the rights and health of women and have no place in the 21st century,” she added.
The First Lady said the country must aspire to achieve a zero FGM status – where every girl goes to school, finds and fulfills her destiny, enjoys her rights and contributes to nation building.
Adding; ”I am aware that though some challenges that our people face are unique to their specific counties, some problems are shared among communities. One such challenge, prevalent in some counties including here, is the continued practice of Female Genital Mutilation on our young girls.”
The First Lady pointed out that HIV and AIDS in Tharaka/Nithi is a challenge that needs to be tackled comprehensively.
The County falls under the HIV Medium Incidence Cluster with 8,760 people living with HIV by the end of 2013, she added.
The First Lady stressed the need for the County to rethink the preventive strategies as the provision of anti-retroviral drugs, treatment of opportunistic infections and laboratory monitoring remains a challenge.
She said over the last year, vast knowledge of the issues that plague mothers and children in various parts of the country have been gained.
Through the clinic, the First Lady said Beyond Zero will partner and augment the health services delivered in the County while leveraging on the available resources.
“I say leverage because the mobile clinic will rely on the County resources to run sustainably,” she added.
The First Lady invited all Kenyans to join her for the 2nd edition of the First Lady’s Half Marathon on the 8th of March in support of the Beyond Zero campaign.
“By running with us, you will be saving the lives of countless mothers and children in the country through provision of mobile clinics,” she said.
The First Lady added, “As you train for the marathon, which I hope you are doing, you will also receive the beneficial effects of exercise, which in this day and age of lifestyle diseases will keep your body healthy and fit.”
Tharaka/Nithi Governor Samuel Ragwa broke ranks with defiant governors and signified his support for the equipment to hospitals in the counties by endorsing the project.
Ragwa signed an agreement for Chuka and Marimanti hospitals in the county to receive Sh600 million worth of theatre equipment from the programme. The public signing of the agreement was witnessed by the First Lady and Health Cabinet Secretary James Macharia.
The Governor said his government will support all initiatives that impact positively on the county residents.
Others who spoke were Macharia, local MPs Muthomi Njuki, Kareke Mbiuki and Woman Representative Beatrice Nkatha.