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, Brighter Communities Worldwide, to help the people of Kipkelion to eradicate FGM in the area once and for all. We’re doing this by training around 70 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 Direct, provided by the Department for International Development (DFID) which will enable us to bring this programme to 3,000 girls in Kipkelion over a 3 year period – focussing on the girls who are most at risk of FGM. We won’t stop until Kipkelion is an FGM free zone!