(4 girls taking action in educating the public of female genital mutilation)

A passage of rite among many ethnic groups in Kenya, is considered an honorable thing. it signifies the transition from childhood to adulthood; whether through hunting, getting traditional marks on your body, by marriage or undergoing circumcision.

Many Kenyan citizens don’t really understand what it is until faced with photographic or video evidence of it via media houses blogs or websites when they get a chance to visit ‘Dr.’ google on the subject. Others say and think it is a bad practice without understanding why it is or who is a victim or survivor of this horrible practice.

Lisa Harker of NSPCC said, “Victims of the crime are “hidden behind a wall of silence’. Like other forms of abuse, if female genital mutilation is not exposed it will continue to thrive and more children will suffer”,
“Children who are at risk or victims of female genital mutilation often don’t even know it is abusive and harmful because it is done at the request of their family.
“They are told they are unclean and immoral if they are not ‘cut’ and that it is in their best interest.
“There is also a huge pressure within these communities to keep quiet about female genital mutilation, with some people even being threatened with violence if they speak out.

In many Kenyan homesteads, it is a sour topic when discussed in public and private settings and is only brought up when time has arrived for the young women and girls in the community to become ‘women’, which begs the question ”What is the understanding and definition of a WOMAN?”

In line with the Resource Center for Women & Girls empowerment programs in breaking negative cycles, the first thing we all need to understand, is what FGM is. I will outline a few commonly asked questions and answers with images where necessary to enable all to understand Female genital mutilation better.

What is Female circumcision/cutting/mutilation?

 It’s the cultural ritual practice which refers to four different types of circumcision/cutting performed on the external genitalia of young girls or women i.e. clitoris/labia. These four basic types are:
Clitoridectomy aka “Sunna”:  is the partial or total removal of the clitoris ‘hood’(a small, sensitive and erectile part of the female genitals) and only the prepuce (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoris)  The ;east commonly practiced form of FGM.

Excision: partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora (the labia are the ‘lips’ that surround the vagina). It is the most common type of FGM in African countries, except in Somalia and Sudan.

Infibulation: narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal formed by cutting and sewing over the outer labia, with or without removal of the clitoris or inner labia. The two sides of the vulva are sewn together leaving a small opening for urinary and menstrual flow. it is the stitching together of the vulva.
 Other: all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, e.g. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping, stretching and cauterizing the genital area.

The goals is to inhibit a woman’s sexual feelings. Most often the mutilation is performed before puberty, often on girls between the age of 4 and 8, but recently it is increasingly performed on nurslings who are only a couple of days, weeks or months old.

Where does FGM happen?
Female Genital Mutilation happens primarily in Africa, in particular in North-Eastern, Eastern and Western Africa. However, it also takes place in the Middle East, in South-East Asia – and also among immigrants in Europe. According to estimates by the World Health Organisation (WHO) 150 million women are affected by FGM world-wide. In Europe, the number of mutilated women or girls and women threatened by FGM amounts up to 500,000.

Why does this practice continue?
It is neither sanctioned by Christianity nor islam, but is practiced by followers of both religions as well as people of animist and other spiritual traditions.

Who performs FGM?
FGM is usually performed by professional circumcisers, women who are enjoying a high reputation in their societies. It is also performed by traditional midwives and occasionally by healers, barbers or nurses or doctors trained in Western medicine. The procedure is usually performed without an aesthetic and under catastrophic hygienic circumstances. Knives, scissors, razor blades or pieces of broken glass are used as instruments among others.

What is being done in Kenya?
In 2001, Kenya passed a law to criminalize FGM, especially for girls under 18 that went into effect in 2011. But even with its enactment, some communities still continue to practice it as SilasNyanchwani of Standard digital news and BBC’sAnn Soy reported.
Organizations such as the following and others offer worldwide assistance on matters concerning FGM.
28Too Many it is a values based charity that seeks to eradicate FGM in the 28 African countries where it is still practiced. The charity’s ultimate goal is to create a domino effect to end FGM in Africa for good. The organization’s Flickr account has many photos from work in the field and also some powerful art created by African survivors of FGM.

 Campaign Against Female Genital Mutilation CAGeM is a global network that seeks to educate about FGM by working with communities at a grassroots level. CAGeM’s Head Quarters are in Nigeria with offices in Egypt, California and New York.  Visit their website which contains very powerful testimony from women across Africa.

 The Desert Flower Foundation Established by the former supermodel and now dedicated activist, Waris Dirie, it is a charity committed to ending FGM worldwide.

According to World HealthOrganization, the key facts of Female genital mutilation are:

      Female genital mutilation (FGM) includes procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

      The procedure has no health benefits for girls and women.

      Procedures can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later cysts, infections, infertility as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths.
      More than 125 million girls and women alive today have been cut in the 29 countries in Africa and Middle East where FGM is concentrated (1).
      FGM is mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and age 15.

      FGM is a violation of the human rights of girls and women.