My father saved me from FGM, but I was desperate to save my friends

Woman shows the razorblade she uses to cut girls' genitals. [File, Standard]
“Did they have to undergo the cut?” questions Amina.

In a squatting position Amina struggled to peep through the small hole on a rusty brown iron sheet. All she saw was blood profusely flowing down the thighs of her peers, Nasra and Sadia aged seven and eight respectively.

She so longed to help her friends escape the painful ordeal but she was not able to as she herself had barely escaped. Amina knows that she was a lucky girl due to the protective nature of her father who despite coming from the Somali community never wanted her to undergo the cut.

She became one of the few girls who managed to escape the wrath of harmful cultural practices that has affected about one in three Kenyan women.

It is now past 20 years and Amina’s memory of the ordeal is still fresh.  And, she might have witnessed the horror two decades ago but the routine still continues disguised in advancements like medical procedures and cross border FGM to shun away any suspicions.

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The perpetuation of FGM is largely attributed to culture with beliefs that those who do not undergo the cut cannot grow to become real women. Amina says that when she was younger she was stigmatized for not being cut but now she feels proud and would go to any stride to fight against the act.

“I faced a lot of ridicule from members of my community who always taunted me for not being whole since I had refused to undergo the cut,” she says.

Female genital mutilation FGM remains one problem that goes against sexual reproductive health and rights of young girls.  Experts state that FGM diminishes a woman’s confidence.

The World Health Organisation reports that globally over 200 million girls have undergone FGM. In Kenya the counties of Samburu, Kisii and Garrisa lead in the practice. These numbers pose a great challenge even as the UN embarks on empowering women through SDG 5 AND 3.

Kenya is ranked as the 17th country leading in the practice of FGM. Without progress this will translate to an increase in the number of girls forced into early marriages and even more reports of young pregnant girls who are considered women once they are cut.

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Research indicates that complications during pregnancies and childbirth are the second cause of maternal deaths for girls between the ages 15 and 19.

FGM happens to be one of the greatest contributors of these complications and when measures are not taken, we are yet to experience even greater consequences.

In 2011, all forms of FGM was criminalized in Kenya and the Anti-FGM Board set up to help combat the problem. While the constitution does not categorically refer to FGM, in article 53 it states that every child should be protected from abuse, neglect, harmful cultural practices or any form of violence.  

In 2016, UNICEF pointed out that most girls undergo FGM before age 15. The act contributes significantly to high teenage pregnancies which is currently a menace across the country in recent months. A few months ago Narok county commissioner made it mandatory for all girls in Narok to undergo assessment to find out whether they have undergone FGM; those who were pregnant would be asked to state the father to their child.

Natembeya’s order led to an uproar with human rights groups stating that in an attempt to curb FGM, another offence should not be committed.

Amina states that enough has been said and all Kenya needs to do is to come up with sustainable solutions for girls.

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“It is evident that criminalization alone cannot end FGM; there is need to make our laws accessible in all languages. Come to think of it, most perpetrators are elderly, and do not even know the constitution. It would be better if enough awareness is made,” she asked.

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FGMAnti-FGM BoardAminaWorld Health Organisation