Men hold key to the fight against FGM

A Masai girl holds protest sign during an anti-Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) run in Kilgoris, Kenya. [Photo: VOA]
A Masai girl holds protest sign during an anti-Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) run in Kilgoris, Kenya. [Photo: VOA]
Men in communities which still practice Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) have embarked on the campaigns to eradicate the vice.

This comes at a time when it is believed that men hold the key to anti FGM war and the successful eradication of the practice.

It is encouraging to see the pace the anti-FGM campaign is taking. Young men in Pokot and Elgeyo Marakwet recently warned that they would not marry circumcised women.

It is also important to note that  Maendeleo ya Wanawake Organization (MYWO) has established centers for girls who have run away from their homes to avoid circumcision or those planning to run away from the knives.

Research and investigations show that Counties like Baringo in the Rift-Valley have recorded declining rates of FGM by 2.2 per cent. This is largely due to the emerging trend of men taking the lead against the practice.

A group of Maasai Morans recently warned circumcisers and parents who withdraw their children from school for circumcision that they would lynch them mercilessly.

Though this would be an extreme, self-defeating action, it is positive indication, especially coming from the Maasai, a people who have stuck to culture and tradition that the message is beginning to sink in. It also sends strong messages to those who still want to continue with the practice within the community.

“It is beginning to be taken seriously, and with more emphasis and campaigns the war is slowly being won”, says Walter Odede Nyakwaka, the Chief Executive Officer of African Alive, Kenya Chapter, a NGO which deals with health issues among the vulnerable communities.

At a recent seminar, the Njuri Nceke, the Meru Council of Elders, declared war against the practice. The organization’s officials warned of a pending curse with severe consequences would befall those still practicing FGM, especially in this era.

This is praise worthy, coming from the custodians of the practice from a region where more than 60 per cent of girls are being circumcised every year. This is according to a Ministry of Health report.

“The more I think about it, the more convinced I am from such examples, that men can help women win the war against FGM,” says Odede.

In most communities that are patriarchal, practice FGM, it is the men who were the decision makers and the executors as women remain voiceless and submissive. Some communities referred to them as children, a testimony still bare today.

For these communities, FGM signifies a rite of passage for girls from childhood to womanhood, instilling values, training and grooming to uphold family stability. It is meant to protect girls, guarantee their acceptance and respect in the community and ensure marriage.

FGM continues in some communities and men portray it as a worthy tradition. Failure to be circumcised in these communities leads to stigmatization and ostracization. For some, FGM is a ticket to marriage.

Now that the pitfalls have been disclosed, men as custodians of culture and tradition, have the key to the elimination of this cruel tradition, which destroys parts of women’s body.

Given that women live under men in most communities, it is men who can help end this tradition.

But it should not be forgotten, men too need to be informed and educated on the effects of FGM and the benefits of the campaigns against it. They should be told the negative effects, especially those linked to health of individual girl.

It is therefore important for anti-FGM campaigners to include men in their campaigns against the practice.

FGM is a thorny issue because even political and opinion leaders from communities, that practice it do not want to condemn it openly for fear of being rejected at the ballot by voters who still want to stick to it.

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