The anti-Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) fight is gaining fruits after a renowned female circumciser laid her tools down to embrace modernity.
Naitoi Ene Ntetia, 55, who hails from Oloirowua village in Narok East Sub County was actively involved in cutting girls for two decades before transforming to be an anti-FGM crusader.
The mother of eight children admits to have cut over 500 girls where she could charge between Sh2, 000 and Sh6, 000 depending with the season.
“During peak seasons like long school holidays, I could cut over ten girls and get a higher payment. On short holidays, very few parents would be willing to submit their girls to FGM because of the short healing period before they went back to school,” she says.
Ms. Ntetia adds that most of the girls subjected for FGM are the teenage girls at the age of 12 and 17, who mostly are school going children.
“It was a taboo for a man to marry an uncircumcised woman. This is the reason why many girls would voluntarily pressure their parents to organize for their cut,” she adds.
Despite having been actively engaged in the retrogressive culture, Ms. Ntetia confesses that the practice could lead to complications which include infections and excessive bleeding that could turn fatal.
“It is a risky practice. Sometimes I witnessed girls bleeding profusely but we kept encouraging them that all would be well,” she says.
Her transformation was triggered by a series of meetings held by the Department of Gender in collaboration with AMREF organization who sensitized the locals on the dangers of engaging in FGM.
“At first, I did not like the teachings because they were against our culture, but the trainers gave us practical examples of how the practice was ruining the lives of young girls. I felt too sad that I was contributing to making the lives of girls difficult,” she reiterates.
The practice was also her major source of income as she educated her children and bought food from the income got from cutting girls.
Nevertheless, the AMREF organization has helped her start goat rearing and kitchen garden jobs that gives her income and provide her with food throughout the year.
“I will continue championing against the vice irrespective of low income. I have joined a local church who have been mentoring me on how to move in the right direction,” she adds.
Ms. Ntetia has now become an anti-FGM crusader who openly rebukes the practice and calls on her fellow women not to subject their children to the practice.
“I regret that I allowed my two girls to undergo FGM. Now I am teaching them to ask whether those willing to undergo the cut were aware of the related detrimental effects on the girl child,” she says in retrospect.
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures involving partial or total removal of the female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs, but does not include a sexual reassignment procedure or a medical procedure that has a genuine therapeutic purpose.
On September 30th 2011, Prohibition of FGM Act was assented to which opened doors to safeguard against violation of a person’s mental or physical integrity through FGM.
The Act saw the formation of Anti- FGM board that has been co-coordinating public awareness programmes against FGM as well as advising the government on matters relating to the practice and the implementation of this act.
In the year 2019, President Uhuru Kenyatta committed to end the retrogressive culture by the year 2022 and called on all government agencies and NGOs to tighten their belt on the fight against FGM.
According to the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS), 2014 report, 21 per cent of women and girls aged between 15-19 years in Kenya had undergone FGM.
The report showed that the practice is high in the North Eastern regions (97 per cent), followed by Samburu (86 per cent), Kisii (84 per cent) and Maa counties at (78 per cent).
FGM has implications on the physical and emotional health of women and girls with no known benefits of the practice.
By Ann Salaton