Cherish Others Organisation Kenya is dedicated to promote the education of the Masai Girl child in Kenya by sponsoring girls tuition and boarding in various schools whilst supporting their families. During the month of December, a period when most girls are put through Female Genital Mutilation, the organisation managed to put a group of thirty girls who were at risk of FGM and put them through the Alternative rite of passage, a period whereby they learn about the FGM, sexuality and what is expected of them in the society, only that the teachings are conducted without without putting the girls through the FGM cut.
Lepishoi, a beneficiary of the project, says "I am Lepishoi. I am fourteen years old. Cherish Others has helped me with my schooI, personal things like sanitary towels and helping my family. Also I have attended the F.G.M. seminar and I have learnt many things.First thing is that I was not knowing is that the STI diseases and how it affects the body. Second is the spreading of HIV/AIDS and how it was firstly originally affect primates...thirdly is the type of F.G.M. of various community. I have known that there are various types of F.G.M. because of different cutting. I have learnt it is dangerous to health. I do not want FGM and I do not want to be married." We have seen girls express their gratitude to the organisation for the exposure and and for being granted the opportunity to be educated.
Cherish Others Organisation would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank all the donors who devoted their resources and time to follow up on the progress of the project. The year has seen the coming on board of several donors, linked to us by Globalgiving, who have continued to support the education of the Masai Girl Child.
In August, Cherish Others Organization Kenya conducted a five day Alternative Rite of Passage for thirty girls, in Kilgoris. The training focused on FGM and reproductive Health. The girls who participated in this seminar complained that their mothers were the main influencing group that literally pushed them to go through FGM. The girls’ mothers organized for the operation to take place including making arrangements for the feast that would take place afterward the cutting was done. The parents convinced them that FGM was good for them due to the following reasons,
· As a rite of passage
· To curb promiscuity
· To prepare the girls for marriage
· Uplift their social status amongst their peer
· To be able to bear pain/ tolerance
· To make child birth easier
· To keep the external genitalia clean
In the training session, the girls learned that early marriage subjected the girl to a lot of economic and physical pressures since they had to fend for their children from an early age. A newly wed girl found herself faced with a heap of family responsibilities and in addition she had to earn a living by engaging in activities such as burning and selling charcoal, hawking milk, tobacco snuff and other farm produce. Excessive physical stress and survival under such hardships were responsible for the deaths of the girls even before they attained age of fifty years old.
The girls were awarded with certificates of participation, gifts and sanitary towels.
Community mobilization, home visits and after training follow-up visits were a regular activity which was accomplished by Project Officers and a community based network of volunteers.
In the Masai community, a typical young girl grows up without understanding of her own sexuality. Before long, at age of nine years old, she is caught unaware by being put through FGM and soon after married off. The How-and-Why of the procedure is not revealed to her in a clear and concise manner. It is only during periods of isolation after actual cutting off of the innocent young girl’s genitals that some restricted information is given to her in the form of ...”what the society expects from her.” The operation is mostly conducted by a familiar face of a grandmother in the presence of women from her homestead, leaving her without doubts that the operation is a good thing, for her own good.The reasons they are given include the girls will get married from within the community and increases male sexual pleasure. That the girl will stay clean and with the assurance of fertility and that child birth will be easy.If a girl is not circumcised she is isolated by her peers and and ridiculed. So a girl may give in to getting the cut so that she is fit to belong to this group of “women.” It is believed that a “real Maasai girl” must undergo the ceremony in order to truly belong, to get married and have children. A girl who is rejected by her friends suffers from low self esteem.Given the right information about the harmfulness of the practice a girl will understand why she does not have to go through it. They will understand that if they are not circumcised they will still be able to get children among other issues pertaining to the myths and misconceptions surrounding FGM. Only then will uncircumcised girls understand that the circumcised girls are brainwashed to believe they are superior.Cherish Others would like to request for more people to donate to this project so that girls are liberated from this practice.Our sincere thanks to those who have supported us and enabled us to do the community based training, pay school fees and conduct and Alternative rite of passage for girls.
The Maasai Community comprises of the following cultural groupings;
An elder is recognized as a leader in a homestead and bears the responsibility of taking charge of family issues and providing family with basic needs. A homestead constitutes one or more wives with children. As family head, he is in charge of all property of the home. The role of an elder in the community is to offer advice, sit and participate in the village disciplinary meetings and make decisions that affect the society.
The woman is the caretaker of the home and family members. Her role is mainly to bring up children, and does the entire house hold chores such as collecting firewood, fetching water and observing cleanliness. Their role is so domesticated that they actually do construct their own houses. The women are farmers but do not have any right in determining the use of the land. They do oversee the grazing of the livestock but have no say on deciding how to economically dispose off the livestock. However, they are allowed to sell farm produce and milk. Women must all have undergone Female Genital Mutilation, FGM, usually at ages of six to fifteen years of age.
Morans are the warriors of the society in that they protect the community from attacks by other communities particularly during tribal clashes and also defend their own clan during inter clan wars. They also provide labour in times of community development activities such as building roads, constructing water source points and dams. They are also involved in the notorious abduction of women in cases of forced marriages.
There is high school drop out rate amongst the youth. Some of boys drop out of school to join the moranism which takes three to five years in the forest and consequently assume life of a moran. Besides schooling the youth are assigned the role of supporting their parents. Mostly the boys tend the livestock, cattle, sheep and goats while the girls busy themselves with household chores which include collecting firewood and fetch water.
The youth are not allowed to air their views in public gatherings. There is no direct communication between the parents and the children. The girls are initiated and married off without much know how about life and problem solving.
An alternative rites of passage ceremony was conducted in December for thirty eight girls so as to provide them with social support and empower them with information concerning harmfulness of FGM, personal care and. society norms at Olorkuti Development Hall.
The ceremony involved a 3 days training of facts about FGM and other traditional rites and their harmfulness to the society. The training incorporated the useful messages like those given to the girls who are circumcised in a traditional ritual, during the isolation period, after they are circumcised such as assuming adult roles, prevention of pregnancies before marriage and upholding family stability. The big difference between the two is that in one the importance of education is emphasised and more so the girls do not go through the cut.
Main topics were as follows:
The end of the ceremony was marked by a colourful graduation party held in honour of the girls. It was in recognition of the fact that the girls were more informed about the society and what was expected from them. Their parents witnessed the graduation ceremony. Upon graduation each girl was issued with a certificate and a gift to signify that she had passed from childhood to adulthood without the cut.
January marked the recruitment of new girls into the scholarship program and the payment of School fees for the 18 girls from deprived families and at risk of forceful FGM. The beneficiaries were from 4 primary and 3 secondary schools. This number of girls was selected subject to the availability of funding for the program.
A session on FGM and its harmfulness was conducted for the youth at Poroko Secondary School. It was realised that FGM topic was not openly discussed even though it was taking place right under their noses, in their homesteads. 137 youth were reached with this Anti FGM Campaign which received mixed reactions with some young men openly declaring that they will still marry girls who have been through FGM practice. Fifty four community members were also trained on FGM and HIV/AIDS at Olorkuti Development Hall in February 2013.
Awareness Creation meetings and Mobilising the community Five community mobilisers reached out to the communities in the target locations. They made contact with two hundred families in Isinya, Ngong, TransMara and Oloitoktok. The people were reached out in their homes, churches, and chiefs' barasas. The mission contained the message of promoting girl child education and shunning away from Female Genital Mutilation. Its unfortunate that since end of November 2012, when schools closed, about fifty girls have been reported to have been put through FGM, "secretly." As a result of mobilization, fifty one young men were mobilized to participate in a three days anti FGM training which took place in Ngong. Young men admitted that they did not understand why the practice persisted. In addition, sixty women were taken through same anti FGM Training at Ngong Pentecostal Church. They confessed that they had put most of their daughters through the cut so they could make good wives. One of the elderly women said that they did not witness the complications which were associated with FGM as was indicated by the Facilitator in the seminar, instead, she reported that women in their location went into normal labor and did not experience any complications while giving birth. Such were the issues which were encountered during interactions with the community members, particularly with elderly (senior) participants. The women insisted that FGM was not bad practice at all. The participants disclosed that the FGM type 3 was practiced whereby all the clitoris, labia minora and labia majora were removed. Identifying, Registering and Monitoring Girls at Risk The Field officer at TransMara was involved in organising for the Alternative rite of Passage Ceremony which was scheduled for the 19th to 21st of November for about 30 girls in Kilgoris. Female Genital Mutilation, FGM is a cultural practice which is a rite of passage from childhood to womanhood, a sign of respect and maturity. The girl is ready for marriage regardless of age. Female circumcision, is done to enhance the woman's fidelity to her polygamous husband because the woman's self-satisfaction and interest in sex is reduced. Custom demands all girls to marry. Alternative rite of passage involves initiation into adulthood without the cut. This involved identifying girls at risk of being put through FGM, making home visits and inviting the girls for the seminar. Home visits were challenging since the family members did not want to disclose family issues, more so about FGM. The project registered more one hundred and twenty two girls as those girls who were at a big risk of being put through FGM. However, only thirty girls would be allowed to go through the alternative rite of passage ceremony. The meetings were facilitated by a team of Subject Matter Specialists, armed with remarkable relevant experience in community development work and FGM subject in particular. Five of the pupils who were sponsored by the Education Scholarships programme sat for their O- level Exams which ended in November 2012. We anticipate excellent results in April next year which will propel them towards college education. The Director, Ruth Konchellah and staff at Cherish Others would like to express deep heart felt gratitude to you for your valued support towards the project achievements. Good wishes for the season and Happy New Year.
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