The Scourge of Female Genital Mutilation is being fought by the Catholic Church in Samburu, Kenya
Guest Blog By Espila Lucy- Gender Focal person of Caritas Maralal
Female Genital Mutilation is a harmful rite of passage that should be defeated. It is a form of gender based violence that is practiced despite its harmful side effects. The procedure involves the unnecessary cut, incision or excision of any part of the female genital organs for cultural, ritual or social purposes depending on the community. Some of the negative effects of the same include injury to adjacent tissues of the vagina, profuse bleeding, shock, acute urine retention, HIV/Aids infections, and recurrent urinary tract Infections.
Some 3 million women and girls face Female Genital Mutilation every year, while some 100 to 140 million have already undergone the practice. From a medical point of view it is unhealthy and causes adverse gynaecological conditions. FGM is a harmful cultural practice forced upon victims, who are brainwashed to believe it is an important rite of passage into womanhood.
Caritas Maralal is the development arm of the Catholic Diocese of Maralal in North West Kenya. The Organisation implements projects in this region where this is a stipulated rite of passage for girls. It is on the forefront to fight this practice and this is been done through a variety of activities. The Gender Desk of the church is mandated to ensure that gender issues are addressed in each and every project implemented in Samburu County. Also, staff and policy makers have been trained on the harmful side effects of female genital mutilation. In each and every training session for our beneficiaries, there has to be a component on Gender Based violence. This has helped to increase awareness about this endemic vice. These workshops have been facilitated by partners such as the CAFOD (Catholic Aid for Overseas Development) and the head Caritas office in Kenya.
Sister Fransisca Nzilani
The Catholic Church has a girl child education and Rescue Centre in Suguta Mar Mar Parish premises, located 42 kilometres away from Samburu County headquarters. The Centre accommodates girls who have escaped from their homes to find shelter there. The girls are victims of FGM, forced/early marriages and other forms of gender based violence. One of the girls in the rescue centre walked all the way from Wamba-Samburu East to the rescue centre a distance of approximately 160 km. The sister in charge of the rescue centre says that it is difficult to support these girls without funding. The girls depend on the rescue centre for most of their basic needs which include sanitary towels, education, stationery, food, clothing and shelter on a monthly basis. The victims need psycho-social support: professional counseling as they get detached from their family upon fleeing from this harmful rite of passage.
The girls inside their hostels at the Rescue Centre
Caritas Maralal is actively fundraising to provide sanitary towels for these victims of gender based violence. Also, through use of the internet for online advocacy the Church reaches out to a number of people who are internet savvy. Also through use of community radio Listeners are informed on the negative effects of Female Genital Mutilation. The 16 days of gender activism is an international campaign that runs from 25th October to 10th December every year. In 2013 the main focus was on female genital mutilation in Samburu. IEC materials were used to disseminate information on gender based violence. A feature on gender based Violence was also aired on a community radio (Serian FM).
Through partnering with Organisations such as the World Vision, the Ministry of Gender and Community based Organisations such as “Nairetu Women and Girls Empowerment Programme” The Church has managed to increase its reach in Samburu. Also, through integration of activities all our beneficiaries get to be trained on issues if Female Genital Mutilation. A child protection training took place during the 16 Days of Gender Activism and The Justice and Peace Department sponsored a feature on Gender Based Violence.
Pope Benedict XVI aptly put it “I believe that women themselves, with their energy and strength, with their superiority, with what I’d call their spiritual power, will know how to make their own space and we will have to try and listen to God so as not to stand in their way.“ Women are victims of negative and harmful cultural traditional practices also; men in marginalised communities are the potential resistors of change they make the decisions that women have to adhere to.
Through empowering women by giving them leadership positions in community projects, training of men, women , boys and girls on the negative effects of Female Genital Mutilation, liaising with the Kenya anti -Female Genital Mutilation board and using men as agents of gender based violence response and prevention this practice shall eventually be defeated.
Espila Lucy- Gender focal person of Caritas Maralal
For more information on the anti-FGM program run by Carital Maralal, see their website below