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May 23, 2019

Knowledge: Power & Starting Point for Change

Glady's, HFAW's CHHRP teaching
Glady's, HFAW's CHHRP teaching

Dear Friends and Partners

Our latest strategy to end FGM has been focused on men involvement. We have discovered that men blindly support FGM and more so keep hands off in an assumption that FGM is a woman’s issue. Men in Kisii often argue that it is the women who cut girls so, we should focus on women.  Our previous conversations with women reveal that women bear this painful act because the men have not agreed to end it. The men still prefer cut women as they believe that these women are more submissive and more “respectable.”  In our opinion respect here means women who cannot question men’s authority even when men do things which they should be held to account such as having extra marital affairs.

During our men’s trainings we discussed topics such as  human rights, domestic violence, the root causes of FGM, the health consequences of FGM, how FGM affects sexual and intimate relationships and sometimes lead to family break-ups, living with FGM survivors, and children’s rights to mention a few. A highly participatory training reaching over 53 men in one week confirmed to us that indeed men will listen and will end FGM if they can be well involved on what FGM really is. Those men who took this training made profound discoveries. As an example, here is what Mugendi, not his real name, said:

 “My name is Makori, a husband and father of two. There are things you have shared that are profoundly true in my own home. My wife has suffered in ways that are difficult to describe. Of course like many women in this village she went through the cut. I am shocked. I have understood why my wife went through excess pain during childbirth, her constant pain during intimacy, and so she is in constant painkillers. I thought I was going to lose her. We stopped at to children because of these challenges. She often complains of feeling pain inside her hips. Today I have understood her. Probably the pain emanated from people sitting on her during FGM causing some dislocations.  Probably the cut interfered with her genitalia. Hence she experienced excess pain and took long to heal after birth. I am so shocked. I cannot allow my daughter, cousin or any other person’s daughter to undergo FGM. You have impacted me with knowledge that I can use to bring change to our community.”

When we discussed gender based violence, the facilitator explained that rape, and even in marriage is a serious violence to a woman. Men laughed because they did not see how you can rape your wife. The facilitator explained what rape means. Isaac explained much to a big round of applause from the entire room that “She will never agree to it (meaning sex) unless I force her.” That almost all men agreed that that is how intimate life happens in their homes did not surprise us having heard these from the women.

What was so important is the discovery by men that “I did not know that FGM has a lot do to with what is going on in our bedrooms” said Isaac. In addition, men wanted to know how to deal with survivors of FGM. Thomas asked, “How can I make my wife share with me this issues you have shared.” To which our survivor facilitator responded that “yes, we can talk, we can have fulfilling sexual lives if only you as our husbands can be patient, gentle and supportive with the knowledge that a cut woman takes longer to get her sexual satisfaction.” Men continued to clap their hands and verbally made commitment to join the anti-FGM movement in Kisii community.

 Friends, you have been instrumental in empowering and protecting girls and women through supporting trainings like this one.  We appeal to you not to relent. Help us raise resources that will sustain the team in reaching out to more men in the community.

Mr. Orina on how to live with FGM survivors
Mr. Orina on how to live with FGM survivors
Participants engaging during the evaluation
Participants engaging during the evaluation
Participant giving his opinion
Participant giving his opinion
Apr 11, 2019

A Community free of FGM, is a Safe Place for Girls

The Grassroot Coordinator introducing the team
The Grassroot Coordinator introducing the team

For a long time, we have hoped to visit two schools on the same day to continue with our initiatives of ending FGM. On 7/3/2019, through your continued support in Global Giving, United Methodist Women, and Dr. Lisa Fontes from the University of Massachusetts, we accomplished to visit Pisgan and Kegogi Secondary school.  The goal of the outreach was to continue with our initiatives to end FGM in Kenya. We interacted with students from these schools and shared knowledge on how they can overcome the threats of FGM.

It becomes a challenge to get access to students during the holiday period.  Unfortunately, it is during the holiday period they are at the highest risk to undergo FGM. Thus, getting them before breaking out for a holiday has proven to be helpful in reducing the risk of them being forced to undergo FGM.  We hope that through these efforts, we reduce FGM prevalence among the Abagusii which is at 84%.

Pisgan Academy…

During the morning session, we went to Pisgan Academy. It is a primary school with a population of three hundred children. The excitement on the pupils could tell it all. They were thrilled to see us.  After introduction, the CHHRPs performed a skit on the need to be protective of their bodies. We believe that such a message is powerful in raising the consciousness of girls regarding the right to refuse to undergo FGM.

‘FGM is harmful to you. We know that you have heard, from where you come from, that it has benefits. We assure you, it is not true. In contrast, FGM leads to severe pain, shock, genital tissue swelling, impaired wound healing, keloids, depression, and anxiety,’ said Gladys Nyasuguta, HFAW CHHRPs.

After a general session with the whole school, the upper primary students were asked to go to another room where they could receive more detailed education on FGM. The lower primary was left behind to engage in activities like reciting poems and singing.

The upper primary students were given an opportunity to ask questions on FGM. Indeed, we discovered that there is a knowledge gap in education on the effects of FGM.  While the students knew that FGM exists in the community, they do not understand its consequences; hence they do not know how to approach the people with the plans to cut them. The session primarily involved assuring the students that they have rights.

 ‘You have a right to your body. It is true when you are young and true when you are old. If you want to do something, it is your body. But if you do not want to do something, it is also your right,’ said Dr. Lisa Fontes. After Dr. Fontes’ address, we answered the student’s questions and proceeded to secondary school.

Kegogi Secondary School…

We were welcomed with melodious songs and dances.  Our goal was to present FGM for what it is; a heinous act. Girls and boys should know that FGM is not something to celebrate. It lacks value. It lacks a basis. Above all, it is a violation of human rights. 

‘Why are you trying to stop our culture?’ One student asked.

The question was a worrying confirmation of the reason FGM has existed for so long. It thrives on conviction. From a young age, that it is a cultural obligation. The student was told that FGM is harmful to girls and women.

‘How can one deal with trauma after undergoing FGM?’ Another student asked.

Indeed, FGM leads to severe trauma. It is sad to imagine that the person who asked the question could be experiencing trauma or knew a person going through the same. One of the CHHRPs addressed the question by emphasizing on the need of the person suffering trauma to talk to somebody he/she trusts. Alternatively, the student could attend guidance and counseling services provided in the school. The afternoon session showed the need for conducting regular follow-ups sessions to assess the progress of the students in relation to FGM.

Dear friend and partner, the school outreach was possible because of the generous donations we receive from you and a grant from the United Methodist Women. The experience shows how you and the United Methodist Women have directly and positively impacted the community. We are confident that the work we are doing in schools is slowly but surely uprooting FGM from society. We continue to appeal to you for advice, technical, and financial support. Kindly, share our work with your friends and family for them to see the impact you are making in society, and if possible, they can do the same.

 

Excited students waving at the team
Excited students waving at the team
The team performing a song to the students
The team performing a song to the students
Dr. Lisa Fontes presenting on self-esteem
Dr. Lisa Fontes presenting on self-esteem
The HFAW team posing for a group photo
The HFAW team posing for a group photo
Feb 19, 2019

Having Fathers on Board, Not such a bad Idea!

Mr. Yebesh Orina addressing the girls
Mr. Yebesh Orina addressing the girls

Dear Friend, Colleagues, and supporters

Despite many advances that have been made in the overall sexual reproductive health, information on reproductive health among female teenagers could be improved. According to the African traditional culture, educating girls on sexual and reproductive is considered women’s responsibilities. Yet, men play critical roles in the ability of women or young girls in seeking sex and reproductive health services. They make decisions whether and when teenage girls can seek healthcare services. The result of not involving men has led to challenges like high cases of early unwanted teenage pregnancies, increase in the prevalence of female genital mutilation, spread of sexually transmitted diseases and high levels of school drop-out. It is in this spirit that HFAW decided to mark the Zero Tolerance for FGM International Day by holding a school outreach at Menyenya Primary, Kijauri Town, Nyansiongo.

HFAW has done many school outreaches since 2015. However, this was like no other. On this day, we prioritized men talking to teenage girls on sexual and reproductive health. Admittedly, we knew that it was risky move from a cultural perspective. Nevertheless, the availability of willing and able male community health and human rights promoters (CRHPP) made the activity successful.

It was so pleasing to see how men took the initiative to lead the sessions. They educated the girls about the emotional, physical, and mental changes they will have to go through during adolescence.

“At some point in your growth and development, you will experience an increased sense of consciousness and need for independence. This is normal and should not stress nor pressure you to get engaged in early intimate relationships or consent to FGM. Stay assured of our support and get closer to your parents as well since their support is equally important in protecting you from the negative eventualities of the adolescence stage like unwanted teenage pregnancies”, said Yebesh Orina.

One girl asked, “I would like to know why girls experience monthly periods?”

Admittedly, prior to the event, few of them had knowledge regarding menstrual health. However, they were assured that it is a normal biological process that every girl experiences. They were assured that it is a sign of development and they should maintain high standards of hygiene during this period and avoid stress.

Another girl remarked, “Why is it that my grandmothers claims that if a girl is not circumcised, she cannot give birth?”

This question was a good sign that the girls were willing to open up to the CRRHPs. Topics related to sexual and reproductive health, especially FGM, are often expressed in low tones and secrecy. They were told, contrary to the information they had, FGM puts one at risk of numerous infections and health complications that will negatively affect one’s ability to give birth.

Not Just Girls alone

The boys’ group was equally interactive. Just like the girl’s group, they were taught and given an opportunity to ask questions. The CRRHPs explained the changes they are likely to experience during adolescence. They were told that it is during such a time that they should take care of themselves and restrain from engaging in early intimate relationships that will distract them from their studies hence preventing them from achieving their life goals. Also, they were asked to take care of their female peers who are equally experiencing pressure because of the physical and emotional changes that occur during adolescence. Then, they were asked to be at the forefront in protecting their sisters and female classmates from being subjected to FGM.

Keeping girls safe is the priority of HFAW. Gladly, this event provided a platform for HFAW to continue showing its commitment in protecting girls in the country. To us, it is a calling and regardless of the challenges that may come with it, we are proud of the achievements we have made. We are humbled by the support we have received from you. We do not take your generosity and sense of good-will for granted. We ask you to continue sharing this information with friends and families so that they can see how you have impacted lives and encourage them to participate in the same.

Mrs. Gladys answering questions asked by the girls
Mrs. Gladys answering questions asked by the girls
The CHHRPs interacting with the students
The CHHRPs interacting with the students
Miss Leah, the acting CEO, addressing the students
Miss Leah, the acting CEO, addressing the students

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