Over 70 girls in Nandi County graduate from special training

Seventy-nine teenage girls in Nandi County have graduated from an alternative rite of passage that has replaced the outlawed female genital mutilation (FGM).

The girls aged between eight and 16 years graduated after a two-week camp that culminated in the colourful coming out ceremony dubbed 'Tumdo Nelel'.

"Tumdo nelel" are Nandi words meaning new-age coming out ceremony. This replaced the traditional Nandi FGM rite that prepared girls for marriage.

The ceremony was held at Nandi Primary School in Kapsabet and attended by the graduates' elated family members, their trainers as well as cultural, religious and Government institutions.

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Hellen Kirui, the director of Nandi Socio-Economic Initiative, which has the responsibility of admitting the girls to the camp and overseeing their training, said the organisation began the programme eight years ago.

Its main objective is to provide alternative rites of passage for girls in Nandi in a bid to wipe out FGM and early marriage practices.

lost girls

Mrs Kirui said the old tradition has slowly died, but had left "lost girls" who lack moral and cultural direction.

"The alternative rite will offer training to girls on several topics including culture, behaviour, self-respect, sexuality and marriage, and independence. Our girls lack a rite of passage and training for personal betterment," she said.

"The initiative offers Nandi girls the same character-building training but without girl child circumcision. While some traditions like circumcision were not helpful, the training has great positive impacts on Nandi girls," she added.

In the camp, the girls were left in the hands of eight "matirenik" who are respected women in the society training them in different subjects.

"We divided the girls into age groups, where training was tailored for the different age brackets. For example, eight-year-olds received different training from 16-year-olds," said Esther Kogo who is the head trainer.

She said the girls also got training in cooking, beadwork, needlework, personal hygiene and self-reliance.

Since its inception eight years ago, Nandi Socio-Economic Initiative has overseen the training of 970 girls in the county.

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female genital mutilation Nandi County