Giving voice to communities to End Female Genital Cutting (FGC) (2018-2019)

Contributor: Florence Mwikali, Program Officer

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In Narok, 78 % of women/girls have undergone FGC, as compared to the national average of 21%. Two thirds of them undergo the cut at 10-14 years, but some as early as five years. The high prevalence of FGC strongly contributes to low educational attainment with literacy levels 40% below the national average and ranking of 42/47 in completion of secondary education. FGC is closely linked to early child bearing – 40% of women and girls are reported begin their child bearing between 15-19 years. It also results in an immediate risk to the health of the girl and has ongoing health and social effects throughout a girl’s life, e.g. risk of early child marriage and pregnancy, with complications during birth. As the women carry traumatic memories and scars their sexual and reproductive health (SRH) is also affected. Furthermore, uncut girls and women face stigma from their family and wider community, as FGC is often linked to marriage eligibility. This pressure is from those around them has led to some women “choosing” to undergo FGC as adults.

The causes of FGC are multiple and inter-linked:
The practice of FGM is conducted but never talked about by the community.
Gender norms dictate a woman’s role in the family and community. Women’s place in society and in decisions making ensures that their voices are not heard.
FGC is a social norm, with seemingly positive social results for those who conform. Therefore, even those who acknowledge the harm of FGC do not immediately abandon for fear of negative social consequences.
The community has deeply rooted myths on FGC and women’s sexuality. All these are sustained by low levels of knowledge and silence in a community whose educational attainment is very low.

The Giving voice to communities to End Female Genital Cutting (FGC) Project in Narok, Kenya is a 2 year (January 1st 2018 – December 31st 2019) project being implemented by COVAW with support from the Orchid Project Organization. The main project goal is to end the practice of FGC in Narok. It focuses on three community units that is Ololulunga, Olmekenyu and Naroosura.

The project objective is to contribute to the abandonment of FGC. COVAW does this through addressing low levels of knowledge on FGC and its effects; facilitating dialogue among community members and seeking to identify and support champions of change. COVAW also enhances the active involvement of men in addressing FGC.
During the second phase (year 2), the project will focus on shifting community values and attitude towards FGC. It is expected that this will result in a questioning and gradual shift in social and gender norms that underlie FGC and result in commitments to change behaviour/practice
COVAW facilitates community dialogues with the support of local community activists and key influencers. From these dialogues it will identify and develop change champions and build their knowledge and community advocacy skills to enhance their effectiveness as change agents.

Community dialogues are complemented by capacity building for public officers, followed by dialogue to sensitize them on the benefits of a more collaboration approach and involve them in dialogues with the traditional elders, community and religious leaders, community activists, champions and other key influencers in addressing FGM. Widespread public awareness is undertaken through outreach and media campaigns around international days’ celebrations

The project also participates in knowledge and experience sharing with Orchid partners and within women and girl rights networks and forums in Narok and at national level. It further contributes towards continuously increasing the organisational capacity to deliver on its goals.