Education is the key to giving girls and boys a brighter future. However, in many poor communities, girls are taken out of school at a young age or are forced to drop out, either because they are pregnant or have been married off. Amref Health Africa is slowly changing this attitude by working with families and community leaders to realize the value of girls’ and women’s education.
Women and girls’ empowerment cannot be sustained without bringing in men and boys as allies. When we engage with male community leaders, they realize the importance of ending harmful practices against women, such as female genital cutting (FGC) or child marriage and instead, invest in the wellbeing of girls and women in their communities. Amref Health Africa has begun introducing alternative rites of passage (ARP) to replace FGC in the transition from girl to woman. By eliminating this harmful practice, communities become leaders in their districts and set an example for others. ARP does not interfere with any other cultural process; the community preserves all the traditional ceremony and pageantry except the cut.
The ARP project also includes an educational component where girls learn about the effects of FGC, preventing HIV, condom use and their sexual health and reproductive rights. It is very encouraging to see leaders embrace the alternative rites of passage. Amref Health Africa is working very closely with these leaders to ensure education is the main priority and that these young girls continue to stay in school.
“No more cutting for Maasai girls! Our elders have united to end the practice; local cutters (Ngariba) accept the alternative rites of passage and have put down their blades. Our girls are much happier now because they didn’t want to be cut in the first place, as that was the adults’ decision,” said Mr Simon , a Maasai elder ( laigwanan) from Kilindi. To date, more than 300 girls in the area have transitioned to young women without being cut.
“It’s time to say YES and thank you to Amref Health Africa. They have played a big part helping the government in Kilindi and other regions. Today, I am proud to support this campaign and along with all my friends in the Maasai Community, I declare this wonderful project a success! Let’s join our efforts to end female genital cutting and shake hands to say ‘kuvusha Rika bila ukeketaji-Inawezekanana,” Meaning we can traditionally celebrate the maturity of our girls without the cut,” said the Kilindi Distict .
“No more cutting for Maasai girls” - Simon Lushane