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Accelerating Action for Girls in Kenya

© UNICEFKenya/2017/Serem
Naruko Lekiloai, a former female circumciser, at her village in Samburu County, northern Kenya.

UNFPA/UNICEF brief donors on the Joint Programme on FGM

By Daisy Serem-Esinapwaka and Fadumo Mohamed

27 July 2017, KENYA - An old woman slowly walks down a dusty path in a village deep in Samburu County, Northern Kenya. Her back is bent and her face wrinkled from the years. Her name is Naruko Lekiloai and she is a former circumciser of young Samburu girls.

Back in the day Naruko was a very popular female circumciser. Many parents would seek her expertise for their young girls and pay even as much as KES. 3,000 / USD30 for the cut. She says she would circumcise close to 50 girls a year.

“It was all part of the tradition, so I felt like I was helping the girls,” Naruko says. “But sometimes I would feel a pain in my heart.”

In 2011 the Government enacted the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Act. The Act not only criminalized FGM for underage girls but for everyone and, in a bid to tackle social pressure, also banned the stigmatization of women who had not undergone FGM.

It extended the powers of previous legislation, providing for the prosecution of those who perform FGM and anyone who aids such a person or who knowingly fails to report knowledge of such acts or pending acts in Kenya or abroad. With this law female circumcisers like Naruko were forced to put down their blades or face prosecution.

Nonetheless the practice still continues, often in secret, putting the lives and future of girls at risk.

FGM in Kenya is practiced by some of its most traditional communities such as the Samburu, Maasai, Kisii and Somali. Therefore, even as the country has made significant progress in reducing the national prevalence of FGM from 32 per cent in 2003 to 21 per cent in 2014, these communities still have FGM prevalence rates as high as 86, 78, 84 and 94 per cent respectively.

© UNICEFKenya/2017/Serem
UNFPA and UNICEF host a donor briefing on their Joint Programme on FGM in Kenya.

For the last 8 years UNICEF in partnership with UNFPA has led the largest global initiative to accelerate abandonment of FGM. The Joint Programme exists across 12 counties in Kenya –Baringo, Elgeyo-Marakwet, Garissa, Kajiado, Kisii, Marsabit, Migori, Narok, Samburu, Tana River, Wajir and West-Pokot..

Now in its second phase (2014 – 2017), the UNFPA/UNICEF Joint Programme on FGM in Kenya has played a catalytic role in high-level advocacy with the Government and donors, whilst also engaging communities, media, religious leaders and most importantly girls and boys.

UNFPA Deputy Representative, Gift Malunga, asks a critical question, "How can we enhance advocacy on ending FGM so that our young girls are protected? What can we do better?"

Ms. Malunga was speaking during a donor briefing meeting held in Nairobi on 20 July 2017. The meeting was an opportunity to highlight the successes and challenges of the joint programme to our leading partners. This included the Governments of Australia, Austria, Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, United States – USAID, and the European Union.

UNFPA/ UNICEF donor briefing meeting  in Nairobi on the Joint Programme on FGM.

UNICEF Kenya Deputy Representative, Patrizia DiGiovanni said, “The Joint Programme on FGM is playing a critical role in achieving Target 5.3 under Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 - Elimination of all harmful practices, including FGM, by 2030. UNICEF and UNFPA are grateful to your respective Governments and your citizens for the generous contributions towards this course of ending FGM.”

Through this collaboration the two UN agencies and implementing partners have synergized our efforts towards accelerating abandonment of FGM for a greater impact. This has contributed to an increasing recognition of FGM as a national agenda, enhancing resource allocation from the government to the Anti-FGM Board.

At the grass root level, the Joint Programme supports key initiatives that enhance community dialogue to stir up local champions who defend the rights of the girl child. Champions like old Naruko who is now an anti-FGM advocate and speaks to her community, especially other female circumcisers, to abandon the harmful practice.

By working with our national and county governments, international community, non-governmental organizations and communities, together we can accelerate action towards a total and final end to FGM.



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