Our FGM Eradication Campaign is now supported by UK Aid Direct

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) also known as female circumcision, has been practised in the Kipkelion area for generations.  Although many people in developed countries associate FGM with Islam, it is in fact a traditional practice in many African countries and is not part of the teachings of Islam.  Both of the two main communities in Kipkelion – the Kalenjin and the Kikuyu – have traditionally used both male and female circumcision as a rite of passage for their young people at the time of puberty.

Many people in Kenya now recognise that FGM is a very harmful practice, and it has recently been made a criminal offence by the Kenyan Government.  In Kipkelion, local chiefs, elders, teachers and religious leaders generally support the eradication of FGM, but in the more remote rural areas there are still places where the practice persists.

We’re currently working with our partners, Friends of Londiani, to help the people of Kipkelion to eradicate FGM in the area once and for all.  We’re doing this by training around 50 local people in Kipkelion – some of whom are themselves victims of FGM – to go out into the community and increase awareness of the unacceptable nature of FGM, through community meetings, debates and discussions.  Once the community has been won over, our volunteers offer an “alternative rites of passage” course to the girls in the community who are about to come of age – the girls learn about their tribal traditions, and what it means to be an adult member of the community, but without suffering the appalling experience of FGM.  The course ends with a public ceremony at which the entire community celebrates the fact that the girls have come of age.

We’re delighted to have the support of a grant from UK Aid, provided by the Department for International Development (DFID) which will enable us to bring this programme to 3,000 girls in Kipkelion over the next 3 years – focussing on the girls who are most at risk of FGM.  We won’t stop until Kipkelion is an FGM free zone!

Special Education in Kipkelion

Kipkelion has a Special School.  It’s quite unusual, as there is very little special needs provision in Kenya, and Kipkelion Special School is the only one in a huge area, serving a population of more than a million people.

The school caters exclusively for children with learning difficulties.  There are currently 120 pupils.  The school is a boarding school, as the pupils’ homes are often many miles away.

The children’s disabilities include many of the congenital conditions we see in the UK such as Downs Syndrome, hydrocephalus and autism, but in addition there are children whose learning difficulties have been caused or made worse by malnutrition in infancy or by severe cases of malaria.  Many of the children in the school suffered oxygen starvation at birth because their mothers had a difficult labour and modern obstetric techniques were not available.  Some suffered brain injuries as babies due to accidents in the home.

The school principal, Mr Reuben Sang, and all his teaching staff are trained as special needs teachers, and they make sure that the children are treated with love and respect and that they are given every opportunity to learn.  The emphasis is on child centred learning and class sizes are relatively small.  The older children are given the opportunity to learn useful craft skills such as brick-making and the making of bracelets.

More and more people in the Kipkelion area are learning about the importance of special needs education and what can be done to help children with learning difficulties.  As a result, the school is vastly over-subscribed, and many children have to be turned away each year.

Mr Sang also told us that the school lacks a reliable water supply – at present they have to fetch water from a river at the bottom of the hill.  The school owns a donkey which is loaded up with water containers, and it has to make the trip to the river and back several times a day.  Hopefully one day the school will have a 32,000 litre water storage tank, so that rain water can be collected during the rainy season and the burden on the donkey will be reduced!