FGM Monthly Article – April 2022

How female genital mutilation costs Nigeria dearly A portrait of Fadumo outside her shelter in Walala Biyotey internally displaced persons camp in Somalia.  Fadumo swore that she would not let her children undergo circumcision after she suffered from the procedure. (Photo: AU UN IST PHOTO / David Mutua The Daily MaverickBy Alexandra WillisApril 7, 2022 Many African countries are paying a high economic and human cost for the continuation of female genital mutilation. One of those is Nigeria. Female genital mutilation (FGM) refers to all procedures involving partial or total removal of female genitalia for non-medical reasons. It is a human rights violation, a public health issue and has substantially detrimental economic consequences. It is carried out mostly on girls between infancy and the age of 15 and is a traditional cultural practice in many countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. It is also practiced in the US and the UK by immigrant groups. More than 200 million girls and women living today have experienced FGM. A quarter of global estimates of the practice of FGM occur in Nigeria. FGM has been outlawed by international legal instruments. It has been criminalized in 24 African countries including Nigeria. In 2012 the United Nations declared 6 February as International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation. In 2020 the UNFPA-Unicef Joint Program, in its annual report Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation: Accelerating Change, recorded 154 arrests, 100 court cases and 47 convictions and sanctions internationally in connection with the practice. Despite its illegality, FGM continues, but appears to be declining in prevalence. In a 2020 statement, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called the practice “a blatant manifestation of gender inequality that is deeply entrenched in social, economic and political structures” and “a human rights violation and an extreme form of violence against girls”. The rationalization of FGM In some societies in Africa, FGM is practiced as an initiation rite of passage of girls to womanhood, while in other societies on the continent, it is practiced with the avowed intention of protecting women’s chastity and discouraging them from being promiscuous. Reducing the propensity for sexual arousal, FGM is believed to inhibit promiscuous and/or extramarital sexual behavior. This belief provides the rationalization or the religious and/or cultural reasons for the practice. One particular reason behind the decision of families to circumcise their daughters in Nigeria is the family’s concern about the girl-child’s inability to marry if she is not circumcised. The reason is that many...

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High Cost Of Living

Kenyans are an angry lot. Everything from gas, cooking oil, cooking flour, sugar, salt, rice, local transport, and generally all basic commodities have increased in price. It started with the increase in fuel, and other commodities soon followed. Many people have not stabilized from the fall-out of Covid, and it is, therefore, tragic that the cost of living has shot up so high, now. The situation has worsened for the families with the current closure of schools and the children being at home. In Kenya, most households cannot afford three meals in a day. Breakfast and dinner are the most observed meals, but not when the children are home; the children need to eat more frequently, especially the younger ones. This school holiday is also the circumcision period for most of the boys. With circumcision, comes added expense, as visitors frequent the home of the initiate.  According to tradition, it is an offense not to feed the masses during the ceremony. The initiates are kept in the house for eight days. During this time the initiate’s mother cooks for the men who come to check on the initiate, as well as her fellow women who come to congratulate her. After the eight days are over, a big feast is prepared where the community and other family members join in to celebrate the initiate. Today, with the current hike on food prices, most homes with initiates are only preparing tea and porridge. Pride in being able to host people is not an affordable luxury. Cooking oil has more than doubled in price. The outcry from Kenyans has been so loud there is tremendous pressure on the government to lower food prices. Many Kenyans have taken to social media asking the government to look at ways to lower food prices; too many household are going without food. Using the hashtag #lowerfoodprices, Kenyans are voicing concern that the basic food commodities have all gone up. Whenever there is a reduction in certain commodities at the supermarkets, people are limited in the amounts they can buy, individually. Those living in the slums and in the middle class are really suffering, yet the government has not done anything to change the situation. According to the latest data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), food prices rose by 8.89 percent in January making it hard for thousands of Kenyans to put food on...

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School Holidays

The children are home for a long break from school. The Form 4 students are sitting their final examinations, so they can join University in September, while the Standard 8 students are sitting their final Primary examinations. This group will be joining Secondary School when schools reopen in April. This is a long break and as usual the children need a lot of attention from their parents, so idleness doesn’t set in causing the students to engage in risky behavior. In the city, it is very hard to keep track of the children. Most parents are back at work and rely on relatives and domestic workers to tend to the children. The younger ones are easier to look after because they don’t have as many needs; if they are fed and entertained, the younger ones are generally okay. The older ones are the big problem, especially the teenagers. They have a lot of time on their hands and are generally on the lookout for adventure. Because of the devastation reeked by Covid, those parents lucky enough to keep their jobs had to take a pay cut, since most companies suffered loss. Things have not been the same for most employees since, and though things are getting back to normal, the losses suffered will take time to recover. Children, especially the youth, do not understand hard times. Due to the pressures they feel from both society and their colleagues, they want to move with the times. More often than not, they are not conscious of the struggles their parents and caregivers are going through. Powerful, negative influences exist that can lead restless kids to drug abuse, and reckless, irresponsible behavior that can easily result in teenage pregnancies and inductions into militia groups, like the al-Shabaab. Though we may not have school activities, we help the parents in our communities manage their teenagers. We have interacted with them for a long-time and tend to understand their issues. Keeping the children and teenagers busy with outdoor activities is the best way to keep them safely engaged. If left to their own devices, the teenagers will sit behind the television the whole day and play video games. This is not healthy behavior; teenagers need activities to keep them healthy as they also learn new activities. Most parents in the city send their children to the village, so they can keep away from mischief...

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International Womens Day

The theme this year for International Women’s Day is ‘gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow.’ In Africa, where the woman is looked down upon, forced to live a life that is oppressive and downright degrading, we are seeing positive strides each year. More girls are going to school, the rate of F.G.M has gone down, and women are taking their place in the workforce. More and more women are standing up for their rights and not allowing negative talk or prejudice towards them to affect their way of life. But even with the positive strides, a lot still needs to be done. As we celebrated gender equality today, women in Kenya held a demonstration aimed at the Ministry of Gender asking that a stop be applied to rogue motorbike riders that have become a law unto themselves. In Africa, motorbikes are used as a means of transport by most of the middle and lower class. The motorbikes are famous for beating traffic jams and getting people where they need to be on time. The motorbike as a means of transport is an inexpensive way for people to get back and forth to their destinations. Over the years, however, the motorbikes have taken over the roads. The motorbikes are dangerously driven by rogue and unqualified riders who have caused countless accidents. The motorbike craze has contributed to many schoolboys dropping out of school. Seen as an easy way to make money, most boys struggling in school dropout and opt to become motorbike riders. The problem is they do not go for professional training so cause a lot of accidents in the process. Young schoolgirls, enticed with ‘free rides,’ too often become impregnated by these riders. The riders are known to harass women in almost every part of the country. If by bad luck, a driver hits one if these riders, regardless of whether the driver was right or wrong, the riders gang up, beat the party involved, burn the vehicle, and, if the driver is a woman, chances of her being sexually assaulted are high. This week, we had an unfortunate incidence where a young lady hit a pedestrian on her way home from work. As she got out to help the victim, the motorbike riders, who typically jump out of nowhere, descended on her and harassed her ruthlessly. She clung to her car and begged the group of...

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Choice Club Graduations, Shiners And Kimuka Schools

We had our graduation ceremony at Shiners Girls school last weekend, and today, we had the final graduation ceremony at Kimuka School. In total, we have graduated over 220 girls in all three schools. Graduation ceremonies usually elicite a lot of excitement. The students prepare well before the graduation day. School uniforms are washed, dried and put under the mattresses to remove the creases. There are no iron boxes at school; each girl has to invent a method to keep her uniform clean and neat for the big day. Th guests usually invited to help grace these events, are always very welcome as they bring a new message and hope to the school. The girls are usually very happy to receive a new face in the school and to learn something new from our guests speakers. The school administration helps us a lot with the ceremonies. They ensure that everything needed for the ceremony is delivered, and they help the students organize the meals with the help of the school cooks. The school compound is cleaned thoroughly, and the entire environment is well-maintained and welcoming. As much as it is usually a graduation ceremony for the Choice Club, we took time this year, to appreciate the Form 4 class who will be sitting for their final examination. At the three schools, we had a joint ceremony with the Form 4 classes where  we gave them a success card and spoke words of encouragemnet to them. The meals we prepare for the graduation ceremonies are shared with the entire school. We believe in the spirit of sharing and being mindful of the welfare of the other girls. We squeeze our budgets as much as possible, so we are left with enough finances for the food budget. Graduating class with their school matron and deputy principal. A happy girl at Shiners school displays a message on a manila paper. As beautiful as the message displayed. Shiners’ Choice Club members get ready to cut their cake assisted by an invited guest. Representatives of the Form 4 class receive their success card from the club patrons. Sharing a meal is always a welcomed gesture from the club members. Students at Shiners school listen to a speech from the invited guests. Teachers at Shiners school share in the graduation lunch. Kimuka graduating students. A teacher at Kimuka school gets ready to present the graduation...

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