A total of 1,200 Maasai girls from Kenya and Tanzania graduated to womanhood without being circumcised at a colourful event held on Friday, August 28, 2015 at Romboi Emanyatta grounds in Loitokitok, near the border of the two countries.
As an alternative to Female Genital Cutting (FGC), the girls went through a three-day period of seclusion in line with the traditional rites of passage. They were trained on sexual reproductive health, FGC, Alternative Rite of Passage (ARP), cultural norms and how to become women without the cut. This was followed by a beauty pageant “Candle Night Out” in which the girls were taught about self-esteem and to accept ARP as an option to the cut. Cultural elders, mothers and female circumcisers also attended the anti-FGC declaration night event to support the girls and the alternative rite of passage.
During the ceremony, attended by community leaders and members, the girls received blessings from cultural elders to symbolise a new beginning and them to become anti-FGC champions. One such champion is 11-year-old Shiluni Shirim, winner of Miss ARP Loitokitok beauty pageant.
“I want more girls in my community to be given more education because we do not want the cut. I also want girls to be given their rights. Previously only boys were educated but Amref Health Africa started a programme to ensure all girls in my community go to school.” -Shiluni Shirim, winner of Miss ARP Loitokitok beauty pageant.
Amref Health Africa in Kenya’s ARP model, developed in 2009 through the Nomadic Youth Reproductive Health project in Magadi and Kajiado, awareness activities and training to engage key cultural elders, mothers, girls, morans (young men) and the wider community. The community identifies the health risks associated with the cut such as severe fatal bleeding, extensive damage of the reproductive health system and obstetric fistula among others and takes ownership of developing an alternative rite of passage for the girls to enter womanhood.
A graduation ceremony which was held the following day was attended by Kajiado County Commissioner Kello Harsama, Chairperson of Anti-Female Genital Mutilation Board, Hon Jebii Kilimo, Amref Health Africa CEO, Dr Githinji Gitahi, Amref Flying Doctors in Netherlands CEO, Patricia Vermeulen, Acting Country Director Amref Health Africa in Kenya Mr Peter Ofware, as well as donors, partners and thousands of community members.
Mr Ofware emphasised the need to encourage the Government of Kenya and other partners to recognise and adopt ARP which is an innovative, community-driven approach.
FGC, a long-held cultural practice among the Maasai community, has been outlawed in Kenya since 2001 under the Children’s Act and Chapter 586 of the Laws of Kenya, although it is still practiced in secret. To date, over 7000 girls have denounced the practice and undergone the cultural community-led alternative to female circumcision.
The three-year project (2013-2016), funded by the Dutch Postcode Lottery in partnership with the Ministry of Health is currently being implemented by Amref Health Africa in Kenya.
The Entito Ee Maa project (Let girls be women without the cut) aims to contribute to the abandonment of FGC and improve health and education outcomes for Maasai girls and the community by the year 2020 in Magadi, Samburu, Loitokitok (Kenya) and Kilindi in Tanzania. This is in collaboration with various Civil Society Organisations, NGOs and private partners including the Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights Alliance and the County Government of Kajiado.
Its time to #STOPFGC and START THE ALTERNATIVE now.
Story by: Carolyne Khamala