Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is illegal in Kenya, though it is still widely practiced. Once a year a larger ceremony is planned by local leaders and girls (normally between the ages of 8 – 14) are subjected to the ‘cut.’ Feed the Minds worked with their local community partner (who) to provide Girls Empowerment Camps, which provide a safe and secure home for the girls and women during the FGM season.
These camps are more than just a safe place, however. They provide the girls with an opportunity to learn more about FGM and how it will affect them including the longer term impacts of FGM in later life and child birth. These workshops provide training and support on how to advocate for the abandonment of FGM and also help them to understand the law that protects them. In addition, the program engages the wider community through issue sensitization workshops and campaigns – all with the goal of increasing community awareness of the effects of FGM.
Feed the Minds also helped build a community support system to help victims of FGM. Health professionals have begun to share their knowledge with patients and developed a set of guidelines on how to provide both medical care and counselling to girls who have undergone the procedure. In addition, trained paralegals have formed monitoring groups in order to identify and keep track of girls who are risk of FGM, as well as reporting at-risk girls and FGM cases to the Children’s Office. Teachers have also established monitoring groups which are responsible for identifying girls at risk and reporting concerns to the authorities; these groups have since initiated their own anti-FGM campaigns.
These workshops, camps, and community support systems have a powerful impact. The girls who participated have developed higher self-esteem and greater confidence. The number of girls who have refused to undergo FGM and insist on completing their education is increasing and these role models are encouraging other girls to follow their example. The parents and grandparents who participated in workshops have also decided that education is a better means of enhancing a girl’s marriageability and a family’s social and economic status than FGM. Finally, as a result of this program, girls and adult stakeholders involved in this project are now equipped with the knowledge and skills they need in order to be effective advocates for girls’ rights.
Through the generosity of Etihad Airways, Feed the Minds was able to send two program managers to support this community-wide program to empower women in Kisii and Kuria, Kenya.