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Uganda, March 2014: Parents in Tepeth community join fight against Female Genital Mutilation

By Proscovia Nakibuuka Mbonye

Clementina Lobokan, a single mother of six is one of the parents from Kitekile subcounty that has joined the campaign against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) among the Tepeth community in Moroto district.

The Tepeth community, largely domiciled in Kitekile and Tapac sub-counties of Moroto district in Karamoja region, is among the communities in Uganda that still practices FGM, despite it being outlawed.

Clementina, who does not remember her age, understands that the cultural practice is not only a violation of human rights but a health hazard as well. She hails from another part of Karamoja where FGM was never practiced. She first heard of the cruel practice when she got married to a man from the Tepeth community.

Clementina’s biggest fear then was that her daughters would not be spared from the FGM knife.

Her fears became a reality when two of her daughters (the eldest) were subjected to FGM between the ages of 12 and 14, at the height of the practice amongst the Tepeth community. The law against the practice was not yet in place and the community had not yet been sensitised about the dangers of the practice.

Her daughters bled so much and were so ill for a while. The sight of the two innocent girls in pain was the turning point. Clementina became an advocate of the anti FGM campaign in her community soon thereafter.

Although she has never been to school, the anti FGM champion has registered a number of successes in her village.

“Today, thanks to organisations like UNICEF, we (parents) have been empowered, sensitised and are now aware of the dangers of the practice,” says Clementina with a smile. “This has enabled me to save my three other girls from the knife,” she adds.

In 2012, the Moroto Local Government set aside a special day known as The Tepeth Cultural Day to advocate for the abandonment of FGM, a cultural practice that has a lasting impact on girls and women.

The achievements of this campaign have been enormous. Most parents have joined the campaign against FGM in the process. Former cutters have surrendered their tools and abandoned the act whereas enforcement of the FGM Act in the region is on-going.

According to the leaders in Tepeth, the highlight this year was the arrest and conviction of a 70 year old cutter from Tapac sub-county, who right now, is serving two years in prison.

Nevertheless, a few cases still remain especially among girls out of school. These girls go to Nasara village located along Uganda’s border with Kenya and request to be mutilated for fear of being marginalised in their own communities.

In 2012, while away from home, one of Clementina’s daughters escaped from home with a group of girls to Kenya for the mutilation. However, she and other women acted quickly and intercepted the girls before they could cross the border. The girls were sensitised against the practice and they never attempted to seek to be cut again.

“There is need for a cross border agreement between Uganda and Kenya which will address the issues of girls crossing to get mutilated,” says Moses Loro, Assistant Community Development Officer, Tapac sub-county. “We have also embarked on selective sensitisation where we target girls out of school,” he adds.

As result of the intensified campaign, there has been a decline in the cases reported. Local leaders, parents and community members are all involved in reporting cases.  

In collaboration with the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, UNFPA and UNICEF continue to work with the districts of Amudat, Bukwo Kapchorwa, Kween, Moroto, and Nakapiripirit and one civil society organisation, Arbeiter Sameriter-Bund (ASB), to increase awareness and understanding of the FGM laws and strengthen capacity of stakeholders to help stop FGM.

“The government and all partners in Karamoja should continue advocating for the abandonment of the practice to save the future generation. Without continued sensitisation, the practice can easily pick up again,” Clementina concludes.

 

 
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