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'It haunts me many girls I 'cut' bled to death at birth'

Health & Science
 For most girls, FGM signals the end of formal schooling and the advent of early pregnancies. [Peter Ochieng, Standard]

Cheposera Samuel, a 60-year-old ex-circumciser claims her past keeps haunting her five years after dropping the razor.

The mother of ten from Lobiroi village, in Alale, West Pokot County regrets that some girls who went through FGM had to deliver through Caesarian Section (CS).

“I am haunted. It pains me that girls that I mutilated bled too much at birth, some died. I wish I knew the dangers of the act,” says Cheposera who was wooed into the vice by ageing practitioners.

 Cheposera was in her 30s and still recalls that those who hadn’t gone through FGM were given demeaning nicknames - ’chepchaurai’ for women and ‘sorin’ for their children.

Cheposera is among reformers trained by UNICEF to sensitise the community on dangers of FGM and early marriages which in West Pokot is “worrying and troubling, a retrogressive culture that is hurting the wellbeing of the girl child,” says Rotuno Kipsang, the UNICEF Kenya Chief of Field Office Lodwar that serves West Pokot.

Kipsang noted that FGM and early marriage are intertwined as “once a girl undergoes FGM, they are perceived to have graduated to adulthood. Some are married to elderly men, yet most are girls below 15 years.”  

UNICEF has been engaging elders from Kenya and Uganda for community dialogue to help fight FGM.

  FGM and early marriage are intertwined. [iStock]

Last year, the elders issued curses to anybody practicing FGM in their communities hoping the cases will reduce, says Kipsang adding that men are absent when their daughters are going through FGM “and so they do not understand the pain, physical and emotional damages they expose them to.”

Kipsang adds that men as the decision-makers, have also been roped, since they’re the biggest drivers of the vice. In Pokot culture, men receive dowry and thus have the power to marry off the girls at tender ages.

For most girls, FGM signals the end of formal schooling and the advent of early pregnancies, physical and sexual violence and attendant health risks and eventual poverty.

Areas, where FGM is rampant, include Sigor, Mosol, Loksaita, Amulem and some parts of Sigel.

Peter Lowas, an elder explains that “FGM was like an advertisement, for marrying off girls, that was accompanied by celebrations. Those who were not cut were viewed as cowards.”   

Though County Assemblies are engaged being the legislators, the immigration of locals to Uganda is a major hitch as majority of girls undergo the cut there and vice versa.

There is thus need for cross-border interventions, says Ambrose Merian, the Programme Coordinator for Umoja Development Organisation (UDO) in West Pokot.

He adds that while Uganda has strict policies and laws including cutting the hand of an FGM practitioner when caught red-handed, Kenya has loose policies that needs to be fixed.

The practice is also attributed to low school enrollment as an estimated 42,000 children are out of school in West Pokot.   

The County children’s coordinator, Philip Wapopa says the children’s department will launch a four-year programme to increase school enrollment to at least 70 per cent.

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