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FGM victim fighting to ensure no girl under her care is circumcised

Jennifer Kibon turned her home into a rescue centre where young girls forced to undergo FGM seek refuge. [Standard]

At the age of 13, Jennifer Kibon underwent a traumatising experience that left her scarred for life. 

She remembers her mother telling her that she would go for circumcision the following day but she didn’t know what exactly that meant. 

Jennifer, then a pupil at a local primary school in Baringo County, was taken to a nearby village with her two sisters for the rite. 

There, they found other girls who had arrived earlier and their host began the cut. One girl after the other, they were all circumcised.

And then it was her turn.

“Two women held me to the ground and my mother held my hands. One elderly woman then went ahead to cut me. It was so painful,” she narrates the ordeal that happened five decades ago as if it took place just the other day.

Jennifer’s mother told her that she had now become a woman. Her legs were tightly bound together so that she could not move. She was told she had to lie that way for a month for complete healing.

FGM or female circumcision involves cutting off the clitoris and sewing up the labia, leaving only a small opening for urination. Tying up the legs for weeks prevents the hole from opening up.

After the cut, Jennifer almost bled to death, and found herself isolated from her other siblings. 

“They left me to be eaten by wild animals. I bled continuously for about two weeks but by luck, the bleeding stopped and I felt better.”

Thinking that it was all over now that she had cheated death, the worst was yet to come. She found herself married off at the age of 14. 

Just like many other girls from her village, Jennifer, now aged 60, never enjoyed her childhood.

Statistics from the gender department in Baringo indicate that the Tiaty sub-County recorded 28 cases, the highest in the region. Only three cases of FGM were prosecuted while 330 girls were rescued. In Marigat, 11 cases were reported, two prosecuted with 111 girls rescued.

Jennifer’s troubles did not end with her cut but got more complicated after she gave birth to three girls.

When her firstborn daughter was 11, Jennifer’s husband told her that he had found a suitor for the girl, but first, she had to undergo the cut.

“My ex-husband tried to convince me that the girls must be cut so that he could enjoy and drink traditional brew with his peers, but I stood firm,” she said.

Living under a tree

The man to kicked her out of their matrimonial home.

“I had just given birth five days earlier and we had nowhere to go. My parents’ house wasn’t an option.

“I lived under a tree with my children for two days without food, and that is when something changed in me. I chose to fight for my children,” she said.

The need to fill the void of the voiceless in her community was a calling, a mission which she took with much zeal.

“No one will tell our girls the gravity of FGM, how it causes complications during birth, trauma, bleeding to death, but because it is a rite of passage, it is viewed as the right thing to do,” she said.

Jennifer saw an opportunity to educate the community on the need to shun FGM. Many were angry with her and some even threatened her.

She turned her home into a rescue centre where young girls forced to undergo FGM seek refuge.