Alternative Right of Passage – Olkiramatian Magadi Ceremony

Female Genital Mutilation is defined by the World Health Organization as all procedures involving partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. On the 24-26th of August this year, our Pokot girls, sponsored by the Helen Valverde Scholarship Program, joined a group of over 300 teenagers in the town of Magadi, in a village known as Olkiramatian, to participate in an Alternative Right of Passage Ceremony. The girls participated in a two-day workshop where experts on the topic of female reproductive health taught them about the extreme dangers of FGM. Magadi is home to a large number of the Masai community. The Masai are a Nilotic ethnic group from Southern Kenya. They are a nomadic warrior tribe known for their rich culture and love for their animals which are basically comprised of goats and cows. The Masai depend on their cattle for meat, milk and blood- the main components of their diet.  They do not have need for food grown by other communities; instead, the Masai are very focused on maintaining their own culture. They are one of the rare tribes that has defied modern culture and retained their traditional way of life. On the flip side, the Masai are amongst the communities that practice FGM.  The cohesive strength of the Masai culture makes it resistant to change, especially to deeply ingrained traditions, like the practice of FGM. The Masai believe that a girl who is not cut is not fit for marriage.  The force that drives this thinking is that after being cut the girls will refrain from engaging in sexual intercourse.  The Masai believe that once a girl is cut, she will preserve the honor of the Masai society by staying pure. The aim of ‘the cut’ in the Masai community is to stop the female from being promiscuous. The Masai practice Type 1 of FGM which involves the removal of the clitoral hood and all or part of the clitoris. This procedure is known as clitoridectomy. The Alternative Right of passage has been designed to spare the girls the horrific, damaging aspects of ‘the cut’ by providing an educational and ‘symbolic’ passage into adulthood. The girls participate in a training session where they are educated about the dangers of FGM which include severe bleeding, infection due to poor sanitary conditions, risk of contracting HIV/AIDS...

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Kenya Farming- Hats Off to Mr. Wakaba!

If you want to be included on the list of people known for achieving their desires despite unrelenting challenges, be prepared to work hard, fight hard, stay on course, stay focused, year after year after year, obstacle after obstacle, seeming failure after failure to make your dream come true.  It is said: ‘To the one who is determined, it remains only to act. There is no chance, no destiny, and no fate that can hinder or control the firm resolve of a determined soul.’ In Kenya, we are truly blessed with good weather, plenty of food when the rains are sufficient, and very hard working people. We are taught from an early age the need to fend for ourselves, to take care of the fields because they are our source of livelihood.  Without the fields, there would not be enough food for human consumption.  We are taught to plant trees and to conserve the environment.  As necessary as it is to cut trees for firewood and building materials, we have always been encouraged to plant ‘two ‘trees for every ‘one’ tree that is cut. This traditional teaching and cultural priority has been in effect too many generations to count. We are now, however, seeing vast and unforeseen changes in our root beliefs as so much of our youth is now moving ‘to the city’ after graduated from school.  Many of this generation, graduate and now buy or lease homes in the city away from the community where they were born and raised.  Their older parents have been left to take care of the homes of origin.  Many of their parents have gotten too old and have lost the energy to till the land and make good use of the rural environment, once so primal and native to Kenya. It was thus with great pleasure and renewed excitement that I came upon Mr. Wakaba one day, an older man in his 70s who owns and maintains his own farm with excellence!  Mr. Wakaba has defied age and time by deciding to make ‘the best out of’ his farm. Mr. Wakaba has 9 acres of land in his native village near the Aberdares Mountains.  He practices a lot of fish farming, the growing of crops, and keeping domestic animals. What was most intriguing about this man is his knowledge in matters of crop rotation and in the crossing of breeds, like...

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Female Genital Mutilation Classes

Severe pain, excessive bleeding (hemorrhage), genital tissue swelling, fever, infections e.g. tetanus, Aids, fistula, injury to surrounding genital tissue, shock, still-births, death…. These are some of the risks young girls and women face when they are forced to undergo ‘the cut.’ Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) has no health benefits for girls and women. FGM is a global violation of the human rights of girls and women. FGM violates a female’s rights to health, security, and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture, inhuman or degrading treatment, as well as the right to life when the procedure results in death. At the Choice Club meeting we held at Karen C. Girls School on the 16th of June, the topic for the day was FGM. During the meeting, we looked at the dangers of the practice; the girls in our Club were very sad to learn about what happens to their peers in certain communities. Valvisions believes in delivering relative and correct information to our Choice Club members when we teach on women’s health. In lieu of that objective, we solicited the help of a nurse who attended the June meeting and who delivered a very candid talk with the girls. The nurse presented the girls with photos of the female anatomy the way God intended it to be, whole, healthy and beautiful. Afterwards, she showed another picture of the same anatomy, this one violated by ‘the cut. ’ The look on the girls’ faces was enough to tell the story: they did not like what they saw! Cultural practices rooted in a set of beliefs, values as well as cultural and social behavioral-patterns that govern the lives of people in a society, all contribute to the prehistoric practice of FGM. FGM is seen as part of a girls’ initiation into womanhood and as an important part of a community’s’ cultural heritage and/or tradition. There are many myths associated with ‘the cut.’ One being, for example, that ‘the cut’ will enhance fertility; another- that a female who is ‘not cut’ is not clean or that an ‘un-cut female is witch-like. These kinds of myths serve to perpetuate the practice. The nurse, who spoke during the Choice Club Meeting, works at a Medical Clinic where she helps deliver babies. She shared personal experiences about what she has faced with women who have been ‘cut,’ and who have come to the...

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MOTHER’S DAY THE AFRICAN WAY

Presented by Grace Wandia; Director Kenya Program~ As we celebrate Mother’s Day on the 8th of May, we celebrate a woman who has been exploited over the years because of her gender. We celebrate a woman who has labored and toiled for her family for generations; this woman has known little peace and happiness. This woman has had little access to an education or none at all during the course of her life. She has had very limited access to medical care. She experiences domestic violence on a regular basis. This woman’s hands are old and battered; her hands have tilled the land and produced food for her family, washed the family clothes, and pounded the millet for porridge. This woman’s legs are tough and hard from years of walking bare foot and having trod over stones and rocks fending for her family. This woman delivered her children in a mud and wattle hut, assisted by a local midwife because she cannot afford maternal care or because there is none. The prevalence of HIV and Aids, lack of family planning, and unskilled birth attendants contribute to a high mortality rate, yet this woman gives birth over and over again because that is what culture demands of her. This woman prays for her children, especially the girl-child. In the African culture, the birth of a daughter brings mixed feelings and anxiety. Doubts abound in the mother’s mind as she wonders almost daily whether her daughter will weather the tumultuous storms that life will inevitable bring her, mostly as the result of her gender. Generally speaking, the African mother is far stricter on their daughters than their sons. There is so much conflicting information on how to raise a girl-child that is has become a nightmare for most parents to determine what ‘a good girl’ should be like and how she is to look. It is the responsibility of the mother to ensure that the girl-child fits the standards that society sets for her daughters. When the girl behaves well and is admired in the society, then she belongs to the father. When the opposite is true, she belongs to the mother. The girl-child, due to her feminine stature in and of itself, is excessively vulnerable to her environment making it a daunting task for the mother to raise the girl-child up well. It is, therefore, very important that these girls...

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Akili Dada Leadership Academy

Valvisions Foundation sponsored the Kenya girls to attend the Akili Dada Leadership Academy on April 18th- 22nd. Below, please find some of the highlights of our experience:   SEXUAL REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH The girls were informed about the different changes their bodies will undergo as they process from puberty to adulthood. The three stages of adolescence are 1) early adolescence which takes place from 11-14 years, 2) middle adolescence during the years of 15-17, and 3) late adolescence which occurs between 18-21 years of age. The female body experiences growth changes in areas like breast development, change in shape and height, growth of pubic hair and body hair, and the onset of menstruation. The girls were also taught the need to engage in healthy relationships with others. Healthy relationships contribute to overall well-being while an unhealthy relationship generates the exact opposite. A true friend or partner knows your weaknesses, but shows you your strength; feels your fears but fortifies your faith. Sees your anxieties, but frees your spirit. Recognizes your disability, but emphasizes your possibilities. On the area of sexually transmitted infections, the focus was on the types of sexually transmitted infections which can be transmitted: like Chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, genital PHV infection, and HIV/Aids. SEXUAL GENDER BASED VIOLENCE (SGBV) The girls were taught definitions of violence against women, as illustrated, below: Domestic Violence – the abuse of power perpetrated mainly (but not only) by men against women in a relationship or after separation. Gender based violence (GBV) – Violence against women and girls including physical, sexual, psychological and economic abuse. 1 in 3 women will experience gander-based violence in her lifetime. The trends in Sexual Gender Based Violence in Kenya are manifested through sexual, physical and psychological abuse. The main perpetrators of physical violence among married women are current or former husbands/ partners, mothers/ step-mothers. The main perpetrators of physical violence among unmarried women are teachers, mothers/ step-mothers, fathers/step-fathers. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a form of sexual violence perpetuated on the girl- child and on women in general. According to the Kenya Demographic Health Survey Report (KDHS) there has been a gradual decline in these numbers in recent years. The communities that are notorious for this kind of violence against women are the Somalis at 98%, the Kisii at 96%, and the Masai at 73%. EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE Champions aren’t made in the gyms. Champions are made from something...

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KAREN C. GIRLS SCHOOL – CHOICE CLUB

Valvisions founded the ‘Choice Club’ as a tool to open up discussion for girls in secondary school to help them cope with the daily challenges they experience as young females.  The Choice Club curriculum covers 10 topics that help the girls to learn who they are, discover their potential and the opportunities available to them, as well as how to handle the challenges they are bound to encounter as they become young adults. We provide them with knowledge of their basic human rights, introduce them to the dangers that harmful cultural practices like FGM can cause, and counsel them to seek help if and when they feel they are in danger. We teach the girls who to run to for help both in their communities and in the society-at-large.   This year, at the Karen C. Girls School, Valvisions’ Choice Club has a membership of 42 vibrant girls. The girls are social and very happy and eager to learn and to answer questions. The mentors of the Choice Club have learned that the current generation faces many difficult challenges and that their most coveted reward is ‘self-esteem.’ These young females have been raised in an era where they are in constant need of affirmation and praise. This generation is crying out for mentorship. They need people who can come down to their level and impact them through example as they journey towards higher excellence in life.  At the Choice Club, we believe that the difference between a leader and a mentor is that a leader may lead from a distance but a mentor can only influence when a close personal relationship has been developed. The facilitators of the Choice Club counsel the girls in such a way as to ensure that they feel accepted in society; we help the girls to reach their goals without having to compromise their security or wellbeing.   We teach a weekly class at Karen C. Girls School which is made up of girls from all walks of life. We have girls from Christian backgrounds, Muslims and other religions. We do not discriminate on religious grounds; every girl is equal and we have a sisterhood that endeavors to make each and every girl feel welcome and accepted regardless of their differences.  We believe every girl has a story to tell and that we need to hear that...

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