When the Covid-19 pandemic struck, this saw a mass cutting of girls in West Pokot since schools had closed. The prevalence rate of FGM rose to 90%.2020 was a year defined by the pandemic and we were not able to do much because of the lockdown and the curfew restrictions. However, despite all the challenges, we ensured that in 2021 we were working our way to protect girls and women from all forms of gender-based violence.
2021 was a year of impact in our advocacy work of ending all violence against women and girls especially Female Genital Mutilation. With the support of various partners, we managed to carry out more anti-FGM campaigns especially in the hard-to-reach areas where FGM prevalence rose as a result of the pandemic. Besides, we carried out beadwork training as an alternative source of income so that women can abandon FGM and be self-reliant.
Below are some of the success stories of 2021;
Beading has been a culture that has been in existence since time in memorial in West Pokot. However, women especially in the remote villages have been doing it for their use and during ceremonies. If beadwork can be turned into a commercial activity, women will get an alternative source of income and abandon practicing FGM. African beads have a wide market in many western countries and this can be a good business for women.
With the help of UNFPA and World Vision Kenya, we carried out beadwork training in Kotulpogh Village, Masol ward where women were taught on the beads needed by the labor market in different regions. The women received various beading materials such as beads, threads, and needles. This training aimed at ensuring women perfect on the skill and abandon FGM. As we conduct the training, we also look for markets for their beadwork and advertise their products. To reach a wider audience we launched an online shop “Gifted Hands of Kotulpogh” and we hope in the coming year the proceeds from the sale of these beads will improve the lives of these women.
With the launch of the Johari bead bracelet by her Excellency the first lady of the Republic of Kenya Mama Ngina Kenyatta on 6th December 2021, this initiative will open more markets for beadwork items of women from the pastoral communities. Empowered women contribute to the economic growth of a state and they will be more self-reliant.
The late Desmond Tutu once said that “if we are going to see real development in the world, then our best investment is women.”
Successful tracing of abducted girls and enrolling them back to school.
With the pandemic, there were various cases of FGM and many young girls were married off to the neighboring country, Uganda. We followed up some of the cases together with the office of The Director of Criminal Investigation (DCI) and managed to bring back the girls and enroll them in various schools such as; Propoi girls. Unlike the other years where we lost some of the girls during the search, this year we managed to rescue 3 girls. We appreciate the efforts put in by the administration police and the DCI because their involvement made the mission possible.
Marrying girls off at a young age shatters their dream of achieving their goals in life. We appreciate our partners for supporting this initiative by offering scholarship opportunities.
2021 has been a tough year for women and girls from FGM hotspot areas in West Pokot. With support from UNFPA through World Vision Kenya, We managed to persistently sensitize and create awareness on the effect of FGM on women and girls. We devised simple and workable strategies such as models presentation to show how FGM is carried out, and its health implication to women and girls. Through such well-laid strategies, the community became remorseful to those who underwent the practice. The awareness also surprised some of the cutters who attended our sensitization meetings. They opened up on how they performed FGM to girls and women. Since they had watched our videos and got some teachings from our experts, they vowed not to continue with the practice anymore, and they surrendered their tools of the trade.
In Mosop, 6 reformed and promised to engage in other activities to generate income. Mosop is one of the hotspot areas where girls have always been forced to undergo FGM because of their deep cultural values. Before we visited this area, our champions against FGM registered their frustration that girls massively got cut during the covid-19 break. At one time, Mosop village got featured by mainstream media for having exhumed a body of a woman who died, and they performed the cut to the dead body before burying it again. It was an act that shocked the whole country. The 6 reformed cutters from Mosop village marked a milestone in our fight against FGM. This is because they massively perpetuated FGM practice. So far, these reformed cutters have become our watchdogs at the grassroots, and they are preaching against FGM.
Apart from reformed cutters in Otiot village, we also got 3 reformed cutters from Kotulpogh village in Masol ward. The illiteracy level in Kotulpogh village is close to 100 percent, and women and girls undergo FGM as a rite of passage. We sensitized members of Kotulpogh on the implication of FGM to their women and girls, and they promised to end the practice.
Education in Kotulpogh
Kotulpogh village in Masol Ward has been one of the FGM hotspot areas, with a prevalence close to 100 percent. Since time immemorial, Kotulpogh village has never had a school. A few girls, who got the opportunity to go to school, were forced to stay with their relatives in other areas where they accessed learning facilities. The majority of the girls had no option but to undergo FGM before they were married off. This situation prompted us to act swiftly, and we had to find an alternative that could rescue girls who were at risk of undergoing FGM.
Through the slogan “Give us the children, we give you the school,” we were able to convince some parents to give us their girls, whom we brought to our safe at Ortum Girls Primary. In the first phase, we identified eleven girls from the village. This was after we successfully convinced their parents to allow us to take them to school. We have so far brought 16 girls from Kotulpogh village to join Ortum girls. They only represent a small percentage of girls in the area. The majority of young girls from the Kotulpogh are still at risk of FGM and child.
To break this cycle, together with our partners Too Young to wed, we conducted a rostering exercise, to identify the number of girls per household so that this can inform us on the next step of our projects. Due to the nature of the village, where the community moves from one place to the other in search of water and grass, there is a need to consider a system of education that will accommodate their Nomadic way of life.
Through our advocacy campaigns to set up a school in the area, the government through the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) heard our cry and they are currently setting up a permanent school that is set to be complete soon.
All these stories would not have been successful without the help of ; our partners, State and Non – State actors ,staff ,and friends.We are greatly indebted.