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Over 300 youths beat FGM, graduate from alternative rite of passage

 Youths graduate from a one-month alternative rite of passage in West Pokot County. [Irissheel Shanzu, Standard]

More than 300 youths have graduated from an alternative rite of passage in West Pokot County, marking a significant step in efforts to stamp out outdated Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

Pokot Outreach Ministries (POM) organised the one-month training to safeguard the rights of girls and protect them from negative practices that could ruin their education and future well-being.

The new initiative brought together 248 girls and 60 boys drawn from Lokichar, Kodich Lokichar, Cherang’any, and Kodich locations who are currently on long school holidays for life skills training held at Kodich ward in Pokot North Sub County.

Florence Mondi, the programme officer for the women’s empowerment program at POM Organization, said there is a need to explore ways to battle FGM.

She spoke of the negative impact of the procedure and its detrimental effects on a girl’s life, including challenges in education, complications during childbirth, and forced early marriages orchestrated by men who wield significant control in ruralcommunities.

Mondi said POM had successfully trained 308 young girls to resist the lure of FGM, particularly in Kodich ward, which grapples with a high rate of teenage pregnancies.

“The young men and women were drawn from Lokichar, Kodich Lokichar, Cherangan, Kodich Locations. We had 248 girls and 60 boys making 308 adolescents for the training. The youths came from AIC, Baptist Church, Catholic, and ACK,” she said.

A school visitation programme held in October identified 308 adolescents from various religious backgrounds, aiming to educate and empower them through the POM programme. “These empowered youths, the organisation’s broader goal is empowerment in the society. I acknowledge the existing disparities in development and education,” she said.

Mondi also warned against corruption within local leadership, specifically citing instances of grassroots administrators who allegedly accepted bribes to allow FGM.

“Kodich ward has a high rate of teenage pregnancies where a child carries another child on the back,” she said.

Mondi said the alternative rite of passage trained the youths on various aspects of life and also cautioned young girls on the dangers of FGM to enable them to resist being lured to face the cut.

Charity Chebet, a Kodich resident, emphasised the link between FGM and violence within families, particularly when men insist on subjecting young girls to the practice against their will.

“There are dire consequences of FGM enforced by some rural men. When a girl manages to escape, her mother is often expelled to search for her,” she said.

Senator Julius Murgor, the patron of the POM organisation, addressed the multifaceted effects of FGM, ranging from forced early marriages to life-threatening complications during childbirth.

He stressed the need for uninterrupted education for girls and urged parents to prioritize their daughters’ education over outdated cultural practices.

Reverend Murgor appealed to local chiefs to remain vigilant during the festive season, as this period tends to expose young girls to the risk of being subjected to FGM and forced marriages.

“Parents need to invest in girl child education and abandon harmful practices,” he said.

Brian Kakuko, a 17-year-old male graduate, attested to the effectiveness of sensitization efforts on the dangers of FGM.

Meanwhile, Misa Cherotich, a 17-year-old form three student, highlighted the newfound awareness of women’s leadership and independence through the alternative rite of passage.

Faith Chesobich shared a personal account of escaping FGM and forced marriage and advocated for other girls to reject the practice.

Reuben Meriakol, the Director of the POM Organization, drew attention to the rising dowry for young girls contributing to cattle rustling in the region.

The POM reported that despite ongoing challenges, such as 14 girls escaping to Uganda after undergoing FGM and four girls being cut in Sook area in October, preventative measures are being implemented to combat the barbaric cultural tradition.

The concerted efforts of POM and its partners aim to break the cycle of FGM and create a safer, more empowered future for Pokot girls.

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