Since 2012 the United Nations has marked 11th October as the day to celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child (IDGC). The day is set aside to raise awareness of gender inequalities that the girls face based on their gender, like girl child marriages and Female Genital Mutilation/ Cutting. It is also with the aim to support more opportunity for girls to be able to access education, stop violence against women, easy access to medical care, legal rights and good nutrition. The theme for this year’s IDGC was Girls’ Progress = Goals’ Progress: What Counts for Girls. This year ACCAF joined the Samburu Girls Foundation’s Girls’ Rescue Centre in Loosuk Ward, Samburu County, Kenya in celebration of the achievements made towards empowering the girl child and outline more opportunities available for the girl. The ACCAF’s participation of Prof. Patrick Ndavi Muia, Dr. Jane Wambui and Dr. Tammary Esho brought the high level of FGM/C in the county to the attention of the local leaders and the community.
The celebrations were very successful with good representation of young girls, parents, teachers, community elders and other community members including young boys. There were also a number of local and national organizations as well as NGOs in the celebrations. The program of the day begun by the guests being entertained. The entertainment was very good and informative with appropriate themes in line with the topic of the day. The young boys and girls sang, acted skits, narrated poems and danced to tunes focusing on the importance of educating a girl child and not subjecting them to harmful practices.
The speeches by various community leaders including men followed. There was emphasis for the community to collaborate and together own Samburu Girls Foundation because it is making a difference in their community. These were followed by speeches from the organizations working for the girl child against child marriage and FGM/C.
In Samburu FGM is considered as a rite of passage. The Samburu practice the most severe type – infibulation on girls at pre-puberty after reaching 10-years-of-age and sometimes younger mainly as a rite of passage and preparation for marriage. The female cut determines maturity in girls after which the next stage of honour is forced marriage and motherhood. In her speech Dr. Tammary Esho of ACCAF provided the current statistics with regard to FGM/C in Kenya. She mentioned that the Samburu community has 86% prevalence and is ranked second to the 94% among the Somali community in the country. Furthermore, she pointed out that the largest representation in this cluster of women with FGM/C is young girls between the ages of 10-14 years old. Dr. Esho finalized her speech by urging the Samburu people to stop harmful practices and allow girls to get an education which will give them better leverage in their future life hence benefit their families and the community as a whole. She reiterated that the Samburu people are lagging behind because Kenya now has a prevalence of 21%, a steady drop marked over the last two decades.
Samburu’s value their cultural traditions and would like to keep them intact so as not to lose their identity. It is in this view that the efforts towards abandonment of harmful traditional practices towards girls feel strenuous, but with subtle persistence and more evidence based success stories girls and women will be free to embrace what the world has to offer.
Thus the ACCAF’s participation in the IDGC brought the high level of FGM/C in the county to the attention of the local leaders and the community pointing out what needs to be done to prevent violation of the right of the girl. As ACCAF we are more than delighted when we see young girls achieve their education dreams by escaping the cut. We have been able to succeed so far in the communities we are working in. However a lot more still need to be done to fight the tradition that still takes place behind hidden doors. We need to work together to empower the women and men in the community to know that FGM/C is not a measure of maturity but a rogue custom that needs to end.