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Girls react to sessions on the harmful effects of female genital mutilation

Girls react to video sessions on harmful effects of female genital mutilation.

In August 2015, Caritas Maralal in partnership with CORDAID reached a total of 350 girls through a camping activity in Samburu North; in Baragoi primary school. Campers were from Ngilai, Bendera, Baragoi, Nachola, Natiti and Nalingagor primary schools. The sessions were led by 8 facilitators from AMREF, World Vision, Straight talk foundation, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education. During the camp that lasted for a week, the girls were involved in interactive sessions on life skills, the role of girls in peace building, harmful cultural practices such as; Female Genital Mutilation, early/ forced marriages, beading and Human rights.
They also spent their evenings learning through skits and dramas, songs designed /created by the girls themselves. The Turkana and Samburu Communities in Samburu North, are infamous for inter-ethnic clashes and the facilitators engaged the girls from the two communities in connector activities such as games and interactive sessions on their experiences.
The Director of Gender in Samburu County Ms. Naanyu Lenaseiyan, through the ministry of Gender, supported the girls with 960 sanitary towels. The education office in Baragoi through Mr. Marios donated 800 sanitary towels and straight talk foundation donated 108 Sanitary towels which were all distributed to the campers. The Pastoral Coordinator of the Diocese of Maralal, Fr. Simon Tsiani donated prayer books and resource materials for the girls to learn more about the gospel.
The girls also had interactive sessions with a counseling psychologist Ms. Elsie Ngugi. The sessions revealed that the girls need psychosocial support having faced traumatic experiences such as Female Genital cutting and losing their family members to conflict. There was an expressed need for counseling for these girls who have undergone such traumatic experiences. Through the experience sharing forums some girls broke down sharing their stories of how they watched their loved ones die, how much they are scared of the FGM process and how they have learnt to live with the constant sounds of gunshots in their county. There is a need to assist victims of traumatic experiences to transition from being Victims, to survivors and finally resource persons in the community.
We cannot guarantee the safety of our girls during the school holidays because more often than not they shall be victims of harmful traditional practices such as Female Genital Mutilation. Having learnt on the harmful effects of gender based violence and conflict; they all agreed to “Say NO to FGM” but at the end of the day they don’t really have a choice it rests on their parents and community elders. Some girls broke down during this session some asked “what will happen to those now that have already gone through Female Genital Mutilation?
It was also evident that there is a need to extend this intervention beyond the girls, to the parents of the 350 girls. It was also suggested that the same camping activity should be held for the boy child. It has been said that men are the potential resistors of change and if we don’t target them in our interventions our efforts shall be thwarted. Boys also need to understand the consequences of gender based violence.
There is also need to train the circumcisers and at the same time bring in the aspect of the law in Kenya and Gender based violence. The process has to involve community elders who make decisions at the community levels. What the girls in pastoralist communities need is the freedom from the confines of identity that are attributed to very harmful cultural practices such as beading and abortion, early and forced marriages and Female Genital Mutilation. More over these are the same issues that lead to low enrolment and transition rates in schools.
The Camping activity is one of the key components of the Kenya Essential Education Programme funded by UKAID. The project is being implemented in 100 public primary schools in Samburu County. The lead agency for this project in Cordaid who are working in partnership with Caritas Maralal. Other interventions in schools include; Construction of energy saving institutional stoves, dormitories classrooms and sanitation facilities, provision of sanitary towels to needy girls in schools and establishment of school gardens in select schools. The one year project will run till March 2016.

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