Two years ago, some members of I_Rep team went to Tapach ward to sensitize members of the community on the negative implications of FGM and child marriage. Then, no one talked about Chongis village. All the organization knew was that Chongis was within Tapach ward. During the Covid-19 there was mass cutting in Tapach and about 300 girls underwent the cut. This called for an immediate action and I_Rep organized for a sensitization activity.
Mid-December 2021, I_Rep received an invite from Paul Yoporeng to participate in their upcoming tournament that was scheduled for 2nd January, 2022.The initiated tournament was one way of ensuring that FGM ends in Chongis since there is high prevalence rate of FGM. I_Rep Foundation sponsored the Yopo’s third edition tournament by buying footballs and branded jerseys to be worn during the match. It is through such sporting activities that all community members can be engaged on conversations to end FGM.
Entry into Chongis
I_Rep has been using sporting activities as one of its strategy to create awareness against FGM and child marriage in hotspot areas of West Pokot County. Therefore, football tournament has proven to be the best strategy to reach out to girls and boys, women, as well as men. Football is loved by many people in remote areas.
The partnership between I_Rep Foundation and Yopo’s football tournament came at an opportune moment when the foundation was planning to expand its scope to reach some hard-to-reach areas in the county. During the tournament day, the team from I_Rep got the opportunity to sensitize Chongis villagers on the importance of education, and the effects of FGM and child marriage. It was evident that the village had been cut off from relevant authorities and other stakeholders such as the NGOs. There was not even a single NGO that had reached Chongis village. The community needed empowerment programs and activities to enlighten them on development issues. For example, the area is still widely practicing FGM and child marriage. These practices have had detrimental effects on the whole village because their children drop out of school at the primary level. The one-day tournament activity turned out to be a huge blessing to the community because they got vital information on women’s and girls’ rights.
Challenges in the fight against FGM in Chongis
Chongis village is characterized by steep slopes and rugged terrain and small hills surrounding the village from all corners. The road leading to this village ends at a place called Kaipawis which is 5 kilometers to Chongis. From Kaipawis, the road is tiny and this means people can only get to the village on foot. Due to impassable roads, girls are not safe. It is difficult to rescue girls who are either at risk of forced marriage or are pressurized to undergo the cut.
Apart from the poor states of the roads, the level of education is still very low and it affects the girl-child immensely. For instance, there is only one school in the area which is a primary and secondary combined.In this village girls undergo FGM because they don’t have anything else to do. It has become a rite of passage that needs to be stopped with immediate effect.
The villagers lamented that they are cut off from the world because there is no internet connectivity, no electricity connection, their roads are impassable, and majority of their children drop out of school in primary level. Indeed, when we reached the village, our phones suddenly lost internet. We were cut off!
Before leaving Chongis, I_Rep Foundation CEO planted a foundation tree that will steer a conversation to end FGM and child marriage in Chongis.