Facing the Odds, Abandoning Female Genital Mutilation and Returning to School
By Agnes Karani, in Moroto District, Karamoja
At 17, Mary is a mother of a two year old and has been married for four years. Her marriage was not was easy, and she fought to set herself free. Now she is separated from her husband and has just returned to school.. She is fortunate to be back at school, but more importantly to have escaped Female Genital Mutilation/ Cutting (FGM/ C) unlike many of her peers.
Mary belongs to the Pokot ethnic group, a community where FGM prevalence is 95 % (UDHS 2011). Through the determined effort of her mother, Mary is lucky she has not been mutilated and therefore has no associated health risks. It was only when she fell pregnant and then was traditionally married that she had to drop out of school. But her mother’s advocacy has given her strong views against FGM/ C. She has heard and witnessed the health risks of those girls and women who have undergone this harsh cultural procedure. She is also using this experience to discourage other girls and women from undergoing the harmful procedure.
Both mother and daughter are members of the Community Support Structure (CSS), an interactive community support group formed by TPO, supported by the Government of Uganda and UNICEF. CSS offers services to girls who face the pressures of fighting the harmful rite of passage of FGM/C. Mary and her mother receive regular counselling sessions from CSS and this empowers them to also share this information with their families, friends and the wider community. “FGM/C is not good for girls and women because it brings health complications. Through CSS, the people now know that they cannot just commit FGM/C on girls and women because there is a law and can be arrested and sent to prison,” says Mary.
But Mary’s mother believes that education is key to eradicating this harmful practice. “This practise can be abandoned by our communities, if parents and guardians allow the girl child return to school. Children should be assisted to go to school, so that those who fight education and support FGM/ C will be defeated,” says Mary’s mother.
“FGM/C is not good for girls and women because it brings health complications. The sensitization from the CSS is to bring messages about change that is good. CSS is an interactive community support group formed by TPO and supported by the Government of Uganda - UNICEF Uganda Country Programme. Through CSS, the people now know that they cannot just force FGM/C on girls and women because there is a law and can be arrested and sent to prison,” says Mary on a final note.
To emphasize this point, the International Day on Zero Tolerance against FGM/C is commemorating this day to ensure that more communities intensify their efforts to abandon this harmful practice on girls and women. On the legal side, there is another call to Governments to strengthen the application of the legal framework so that perpetrators of this practice are brought to justice.