Can community dialogue be used to end FGM and child marriage?
Samburu and Marsabit Counties in Kenya are home to several pastoralist tribes, among them the Samburu, the Borana, the Rendille and the Gabra. These tribes are distinct in language and customs, but one similarity they share is that they continue to practice Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) and Child, Early and Forced Marriages (CEFM) despite Kenyan laws outlawing both in 2001.
An average of 86% of women across these tribes underwent FGM/C and 70% were married before they were 18. Each tribe is led by elders who make the decisions for the rest of their community and play a crucial role in maintaining these harmful practices.
The practices are linked; when a girl (typically between 8-15 years old) undergoes FGM/C, she is considered ready to be married off, often to a much older man and is expected to drop out of school once she is married.
Through funding from USAID and our donors, we created Koota Injena — which translates to “Come let us talk” in the Borana language — where we promote the use of community dialogues to end FGM/C and CEFM in 40 communities who identify as Samburu, Borana, Rendille and Gabra in Samburu County and Marsabit County.
Through Koota Injena, we identify “champions” (male or female from any age group) in the community who are willing to stand up against FGM/C and CEFM and provide them with training to help their peers, family, and friends re-envision how women and girls are treated, why their rights should be respected, and why they should finish their education. In addition, we educate champions on the consequences of FGM/C and CEFM and teach them techniques to hold productive discussions between different groups and generations who might have opposing views. One of the innovative approaches of Koota Injena is to directly engage elders and to educate them on the negative effects FGM/C and CEFM have on their communities and ensure that the abandonment of these practices is upheld.
Annual school fees (including room and board)
Scholastic materials such as textbooks, uniforms, beddings and mattress, and other boarding school necessities defined by the school itself)
One “Dignity Kit” to help girls feel their best at school that contains sanitary pads, underwear, soap, a toothbrush and other hygienic items
Through the scholarship, the girls also receive training on life skills (which UNICEF defines as problem solving, critical thinking, effective communication skills, decision-making, creative thinking, interpersonal relationship skills, self-awareness building skills, empathy, and coping with stress and emotions), reproductive health education, advocacy and public speaking skills to help them convince their families and peers to abandon FGM/C and CEFM, and are mentored by Koota Injena staff on a regular basis.
Samburu Elders Publicly Declare to No Longer Practice FGM
On March 5, 2021, the President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta presided over the landmark Kisima Declaration where the top clan elders of the Samburu Community publicly declared to abandon FGM/C and CEFM. Over 200 elders witnessed the event which was attended by other influential members of the Samburu community, including elders, youth leaders, and community champions who advocated against FGM/C and CEFM. Staff from Amref, including Group CEO Dr. Githinji Gitahi, and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) were in attendance. This marked a huge triumph for Koota Injena.
Koota Injena achieved the following:
Rescued and protected 119 girls from FGM/C and CEFM
456 elders committed to abandoning FGM/C in their communities
666 elders committed to ending CEFM in their communities
9 out of 10 participants reported significant knowledge improvement on FGM/C, CEFM, the value of the girl and reproductive health and rights
Trained over 274 champions to stand up against FGM/C and CEFM in their communities
Supported 180 girls with scholarships to attend secondary school
52 Community Health Workers were trained on handling cases of Gender Based Violence
Provided 3,185 girls and boys in secondary school with reproductive health education and life skills training
Strengthened 33 school health clubs
92% of male youth who participated committed to safeguarding their community from CEFM and 87% committed to protect their community from FGM/C
Advocate for Vaccines for All!
Currently, lower income countries are struggling to secure enough vaccines for their populations. Join us in demanding that the Biden Administration increase equity to the COVID-19 vaccine and donate all surplus vaccine doses to lower-income countries.
Help get the COVID-19 vaccines to communities in Africa.