FGM Monthly Article – January

In Summary Here, the local communities have refused to abandon the archaic cultural practices. They withdraw their daughters from school, subjecting them to female circumcision and marrying them off to get dowry. Sensitization against the vice is being conducted in multi-national tea estates in the region. At the crack of dawn, Doreen (not her real name) wakes up, prepares breakfast for her family, dashes to the bathroom to shower before dressing up ready to start her journey to a day secondary school some two kilometers away. The teenage wife leaves her husband, a shopkeeper, at home as she braves the Monday morning chill, joining a file of other students trekking to school in Chebunyo, Chepalungu Constituency, in Bomet County. Apart from her husband, parents, fellow students and teachers who are in the know, there is nothing to betray the fact that she is no ordinary Form Two student.   CIRCUMVENT LAW Hardly 16 years of age, she is one of the teenagers who have been married off, then enrolled in school in a bid to beat the law protecting children from early marriage and sexual exploitation. It is a similar case for a 15-year-old Jackeline (not her real name) who underwent circumcision in November last year and was married off in December to a boda-boda rider in Narok. During the day, these girls are students while, in the evening and on weekends, they play their roles as wives in a new trend that has crept into parts of the South Rift counties of Kericho, Bomet, and Narok.   ARCHAIC PRACTICES Here, the local communities have failed to abandon the archaic cultural practices of withdrawing their daughters from school, subjecting them to female circumcision, and marrying them off to get bride price. “Due to the pressure the administration and various government agencies have placed on the society with the implementation of the Children’s Act, the offenders have devised new methods to circumvent the law, which includes marrying off young girls and enrolling them in school,” said Bomet County Commissioner Geoffrey Omoding. “We have arrested several of the offenders after getting intelligence reports of the marriages. Our position is that both parents of the newly-married girls, along with the husbands of the teenagers, must be arrested and charged,” he said.   CRACKDOWN ON OFFENDERS He said chiefs and their assistants had been directed to closely work with education officers, teachers, police,...

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HIGHLIGHTS OF THE YEAR 2019

Our Kenya Program: As we close the year, below are some of the achievements we made in 2019: We had 4 schools signed up for the Choice Club Mentorship Program. We finished with the Choice Club curriculum on time with all the schools and graduated all the members. We graduated over 200 girls in all the four schools. In Njabini, Kimuka and AIC Ngong we were able to offer lunch to all the girls in the school during the graduation ceremony. We introduced a book club in two of the schools. The book titled “I AM TOO PRETTY TO BE BROKE,” was well received by the girls. We discussed different topics in various meetings. We had a CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) activity with all the schools where we offer the scholarship program. In Njabini Girls, we visited a neighboring Primary School where we played with the young boys and girls. We offered them snacks and gave sanitary towels to the girls in the upper classes. In AIC Girls, we visited a girls ‘Rescue Centre where we helped clean up and cook. We shared a meal and finally played games with them. In Kimuka Girls, the club members used the funds saved up to pay tuition fees for one of the members whose family was unable to pay for her. At Shiners school, the funds went to a children’s home where food was distributed on behalf of the club members. We managed to rescue a girl who had threatened to commit suicide and locked herself in her bedroom. She had refused to go back to school though she was sitting her final exams. Through counselling and offering love and support, she agreed to go back to school and sat her final exams. The parents were very grateful for the support. We gave sanitary towels to the needy girls in all the schools where we offer the Choice Club Mentorship Program. We were invited to other schools including a mixed Primary School to talk to the students on mental and physical health. Valvisions Foundation was recognized for supporting the schools with the Choice Club Mentorship Program which has helped many students especially those with challenges to stay in school. The girls from Pokot, who are part of the Helen Valverde Scholarship Fund, received support to attend college at Thogoto Teachers’ College. They finished their education and all passed their exams with...

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Reachout Center – Mombasa

Valvisions Foundation, in partnership with Reachout Center Trust, conducted a workshop in their Mombasa offices targeting those that are recovering from drug addiction, those that have already recovered and are now peer educators, and members of the community that help the Center recruit the youth found to be using drugs. There was a very positive turn out. We had a total of 80 participants attend the 3-day seminar. The first day we had a group discussion with those who are recovering as well as the recovered addicts. The ones on recovery are given methadone which helps reduce the effects of heroin. Methadone eases the withdrawal symptoms and helps maintain the addict during recovery. It is sad to see what drug addiction can do to negatively impact lives. During the meeting, the addicts kept falling asleep due to the effects of the drugs. When they were awake, the substance abusers greatly contributed to the discussion; they are very knowledgeable, some have brilliant minds that have just wasted away. They get a lot of love and support from the Reachout Center counselors. The counselors know each one of the recruits by name, and it was interesting to see how well they responded to the peer counselors and the Director of the Center. Addressing the addicts by name gives them a sense of belonging; they are not just shadows in the corridors. They are recognized and appreciated. When listening to the individuals share the tribulations they go through on the street as a result of their drug use, we wondered how they managed to survive. They will go to any length to get money for their next ‘fix.’ They have been beaten, sexually abused, imprisoned, chased away from their homes- all the results of drug and substance abuse. One female addict explained that she feels like she’s in a prison where she can’t get out. Drug addiction, it seems, is the only prison where one is locked up, but the keys are on the inside.  Unlocking the door and getting out is a decision only the addict can only make, with a lot of support. Those that have recovered are definitely in a good place. They are, however, cautious of a relapse. They know how fast that can happen as most have relapsed many times. Those in recovery speak with pride of where they are now as opposed to where they used...

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Being a Mentor

A good mentor has the willingness to share their knowledge, skills, and expertise. They must also demonstrate a positive attitude and act as a positive role model. Being a mentor requires one to place themselves in the life of the person being mentored, attempting to walk their journey with them, and making every effort to ensure that every accomplishment in the person’s life is recognized and appreciated. We have mentored many girls in the past; we have seen a positive change in some and none in others. Still, this does not stop our resolve to be effective and helpful. We believe there is something good in each and every one of us. One of the girls we mentored from a young age is Tshani Marithe; she was seven years old at the time. Her parents lived in Kenya though they are originally from Congo. This girl was always inquisitive, pleasant and eager to learn new things. She was very focused on her studies and did well at school. From a tender age, we could see the potential in her. She lived with her parents and two other siblings. Her mother was a hair-dresser; she braided women’s hair from her house, and she did a brilliant job. We all queued to get our hair done by her. With time, Marithe got interested in hair braiding and would watch as her mother braided other people’s hair. She eventually started helping out in the salon after school and this became her life. She graduated from primary school, achieved very good grades in Secondary School and proceeded on to the University where she graduated with honors. She made her parents very proud, and we too, who had been part of her life. It was, therefore, very exciting for us when we met her yesterday after a very long while had passed. She joined her mother’s business of braiding hair, expanded it, and turned the business around. As she develops the business, she also creates time to work and help her mother. Proceeds from the salon have educated all her siblings. Her brother just graduated with a Master’s Degree in Business, and the youngest is finishing up Secondary School. The family has been able to buy land, build a family home, and bought cars- all proceeds from the hair braiding business. Marithe helps her mother come up with new exciting styles to braid hair....

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FGM Monthly Article – December

A recent decision by the First Lady of Ekiti State, Mrs. Bisi Fayemi, to end female genital mutilation is something to cheer.  In Nigeria, it is assumed that amnesty is extended only to those involved in armed conflict. That is far from the truth. The Ekiti First Lady, Erelu Bisi Fayemi, recently extended amnesty to local perpetrators of female genital mutilation (FGM).  A critical look at the activities of Ekiti’s first lady since her husband, Dr. Kayode Fayemi returned to office indicate her commitment to stop social angst and cultural barriers against women.  Recently, the first lady approached the Ekiti State House of Assembly, seeking an amendment to the Ekiti State Gender-Based Violence Prohibition Law, 2012. The kernel of the amendment was to ensure stringent capital punishments for perpetrators of rape and other social scourges against women. Offenders were hitherto slammed with five years imprisonment, but with this amendment, the penalty is now life jail. Part of the amendments being desperately sought included, medical castration of perpetrators, which pundits believed would stem the tide and tighten noose on randy old and young men with unbridled libido for sex.  Going by statistics released by internationally reputed organizations like the World Health Organization and United Nations Children Endowment Fund, Ekiti is second in ranking in FGM practice in Nigeria. This startling revelation actually spurred Mrs. Fayemi to pick up the gauntlet against the perpetrators, whilst the diplomacy of amnesty seems to be her best bet in achieving zero practice of the outdated system in this context.  It was, however, baffling that the locals, who were found to be strong-willed, fanatical and unrepentant with tradition, were willingly surrendering their instruments across all the 16 local government headquarters, where Mrs. Fayemi interacted with women and also empowered them. The arms surrendering scheme was done in Aramoko, Ado, Ikole, Omuo, Ikere and other major headquarters of the 16 local government councils.  In a rare show of love wrapped in diplomacy, the first lady assured the repentant FGM practitioners that the state government was prepared to empower those, who genuinely stop female genital mutilation, for the sake of womanhood. This initiative by Mrs. Fayemi could be predicated on the fact that some of the practitioners derived their means of livelihood from circumcision of male and female children and that there was a need to create alternative and more credible sources of income as a replacement. ...

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