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Communication advocacy strategy toolkit to end FGM

The ever changing trends in Female Genital Mutilation have forced activists to change tact in addressing prevalence of the vice in Migori County.

The newly deployed strategies by anti-FGM activists involve engaging the girls from the affected regions in person-centered communication.

The Person-centered communication for FGM prevention is designed to empower individuals, especially young girls and communities to willingly abandon the practice.

Through this method, the healthcare providers encourage the individual to explore the main reasons for supporting FGM and to re-assess beliefs about the practice. These reasons are then contrasted with facts.

In operationalizing the new strategies, local activists working with Last Mile4D (LM4D), a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC, have gone the girl-child-sensitization way.

The LM4D designs and implements education and training programs focusing on the health and safety of women and girls.

These target groups live in the most remote and less dignified areas, hence the tag “Last Mile.”

The approach is more result oriented as it is a way of dealing with the vice from the first-person perspective before the act.

Recent engagements by activists have revealed how the new trends embraced by FGM practitioners make it impossible to fully expunge the vice.

The revelations come just as the Presidential decree to have FGM end by 2022 nears its deadline. New evolving trends in FGM include the medication of FGM, where cutters claim to be using anesthetics hence no pain to the victim.

Others include conducting FGM on infants of about 10 days old and cross-border FGM, which is flourishing between the Kenya and Tanzania border.

In Kenya, LM4D works in West Pokot and Migori (Kuria region) where communities practicing FGM are also found. The said communities are found to be disconnected from health and other infrastructure such as roads, running water or hospitals.

According to Mahnaz M. Harrison – Founding President and CEO of the LM4D, results will be gained when small girls have first-hand information, about why the vice is endangering their lives.

“Our approach is to work with local partners in Last Mile communities like Kuria and Pokot communities,” says Ms. Harrison, adding, “We want to ensure women and girls have the knowledge, access to information and agency to exercise their rights to health and safety.”

Harrison outlines that person-centered communication with girls has enhanced openness in sharing issues that are affecting them.

In addition, girls learn to speak up for themselves and this has helped in giving out relevant information, when they are faced with threats from home.

“We engage girls through performing theater activities like orating poems with messages asking the community not to subject them to cutting,” said Morrison.

It is interesting to note that girls are brought up in an environment where undergoing the cut is a rite of passage to adulthood. However, the LM4D have managed to change this narrative by encouraging the girls to plant a tree for every girl not cut.

The course has brought a lot of determination from among the girls themselves who are really encouraged to plant their trees. However, direct engagement has not been easy, especially in finding girls in areas where schools are far apart or where there are no schools completely.

This has forced them to approach community centres which are not safe spaces to talk about FGM, hence sometimes posing a lot of security risks. So far a total of 2,500 girls from 10 schools in Migori County have been engaged and other 500 girls from five schools in West Pokot County.

With the mandate of erasing FGM in the country being an inclusive agenda, the inclusion of National Government Administrative Officers (NGAO) has equally been fruitful.

In the Kuria region, the NGAO team headed by the Kuria West Deputy County Commissioner Andrew Mwiti has increased border patrols to curb cross-border FGM, an emerging trend.

According to Mwiti, in December 2021, the coordination of the NGAO fraternity resulted to arrest of 60 FGM culprits and over 300 girls were rescued.

However, the advent of Covid-19 and the 2022 general election disrupted the push for the 2022 timeline, though activists are still hopeful that the 2030 global community goal will be met.

Additionally, FGM cases will be close to zero if all officials stick to what they are promising to do during the anticipated December holidays when FGM is prevalent.

By Polycarp Ochieng’ and George Agimba

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