Eradicate Female Genital Mutilation in west Kenya

by Last Mile4D
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Eradicate Female Genital Mutilation in west Kenya
Eradicate Female Genital Mutilation in west Kenya
Eradicate Female Genital Mutilation in west Kenya
Eradicate Female Genital Mutilation in west Kenya
Eradicate Female Genital Mutilation in west Kenya
Eradicate Female Genital Mutilation in west Kenya
Eradicate Female Genital Mutilation in west Kenya
Eradicate Female Genital Mutilation in west Kenya
Eradicate Female Genital Mutilation in west Kenya

Thanks to your support, we continue our fight against FGM despite the economic hardship that lingers in Kenyan communities because of COVID. Our three-pronged approach of 1) giving girls a voice, 2) engaging community leaders, parents, and stakeholders and 3) working directly with the authorities and law enforcement, continues being an effective trifecta in breaking apart the system that helps perpetuate FGM.

Although women, in particular mothers, aunts, and grandmothers, are mostly responsible for forcing girls to undergo FGM, men are often final decisionmakers in these patriarchal societies. Therefore, during this past quarter we targeted and engaged boys and men in our communities. We held “men only” community meetings run by men who are speaking up against FGM. One of these meetings was specifically focused on youth and their rejection of FGM, which pays dividends today as boys become family advocates against FGM and later when they themselves become fathers. At our last meeting with close to 200 men and boys, Julius, a highly articulate young man, spoke up against the practice of FGM and encouraged his fellow community youth to marry only uncut girls. He talked about the harm FGM imposes on the girls but also how this pernicious practice negatively affects their marriage life, their economic prospects and the health of future generations. He passionately told the audience that FGM is an outdated practice that is a mark of “uneducated people”, and that it their duty to protect their sisters against FGM. He cited evidence that due to efforts against FGM, the practice is being abandoned in many larger cities and communities.

Our community champions continue inspiring us to remain steadfast in the fight against FGM in their communities. We have youth on our side, as both boys and girls are spreading our message and breaking the silence that has perpetuated FGM for centuries. At community events, youth are challenging their village elders. We are raising funds for these efforts, and our more generalized efforts to advance our three-pronged method to fight FGM. To continue doing this in the absence of major institutional funding, we need your financial support.

Please help us to keep the girls safe! Your generosity will help us keep the girls safe and in school. It is your contribution that has made Last Mile4D’s work possible. We appreciate your support up until now. We ask you to continue your support for our intervention efforts on behalf of the girls, so they can reach their dreams of a better and healthier life. Some of you have opted to be recurring donors, which brings us matching dollars from GlobalGiving. A million thanks from me, our team, and of course the girls, for supporting us.

Please follow us on Instagram and Twitter @LastMile_4D. Also, visit our website at www.lastmile4d.org to learn about our work and make contribution to us, directly during the year.

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Our Champion Esther
Our Champion Esther

At LM4D we are inspired by our mission of battling the scourge of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). But we are even more inspired by the stories emanating from our fieldwork and by the dedication of our local partners who are executing our programs and getting the message out. In fact, more communities are learning about the work we are doing, and they are requesting that we do the same in their communities. They are inspired by our radio ads telling them about the harms of FGM and about how our programming involves working with community leaders, parents and even law enforcement, holding out the specter that perpetrators of FGM will be stigmatized, chastised, and even punished.

But the other piece of the puzzle that is causing our message to spread is that the girls themselves have a voice and agency to speak out and be heard. FGM may be a silent crime, but the girls aren’t being silent any longer. Empowering them and giving them voice, along with executing the other aspects of our FGM programming, is our mission and it is working. In fact, women and girls are coming to our community events and speaking out against FGM. Among them is Esther an amazing and courageous young woman. She was raised by her step-grandmother, who sold all she had to keep Esther in school all the way up to her university years. She promised her orphan granddaughter that she will never allow anyone to mutilate her. The brave step-grandmother also spoke out about her own horrific FGM experience and how it damaged her for life. She could not bear any children as a result. Esther spoke to her community about her accomplishments and how because she was given a chance to escape the scourge of FGM, she finished her school and is now in university. At community events, she challenged her village elders and parents to give other girls a chance and keep them in school. She spoke so passionately against FGM and how it curtails the girls’ growth and economic opportunities that two women circumcisers in this meeting stood up and pledged not to cut girls anymore.

We are actively engaging in the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation on February 6th. We have a team in each of the three communities that are participating in various programs to help raise awareness and advocate against FGM. In one part of Kuria, one team will be marching along with 100 girls wearing t-shirts emblazoned with Stop FGM” in local languages and in English. A second team has been invited to participate in the anti-FGM program of their county and will be speaking to the spectators about harms of FGM, and handing out Covid-19 masks that have the message “Stop FGM” on them. The third team in Kuria County will have a banner and also t-shirts with the same message. We are raising funds for these efforts, and we need your financial support.

Despite these positive activities we also are aware that some tribes have plans to cut their girls when schools are closed for spring holiday. We are bracing for the massive cutting season that is looming from the end of February into March because of school holidays. Please help us to keep the girls safe!

That is why we need your support now to continue our activities. Girls in FGM-practicing communities are desperate, and we are desperate to help them. But we cannot do it without further funding. It is your contribution that has made Last Mile4D’s work possible. We ask you to continue your support for our intervention efforts on behalf of the girls, so they can reach their dreams of a better life.

Your generosity will help us keeping the girls safe and in school.

Please follow us on Instagram and Twitter @LastMile_4D. Also, visit our website at www.lastmile4d.org to learn about our work and make contribution to us, directly during the year. We appreciate your support as some of you have opted to be a recurring donor, which brings matching dollars from GlobalGiving to us as well. Million thanks for supporting us.

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Teaching educational module
Teaching educational module

We are continuously encouraged by our field officers’ involvement with the girls and their communities on battling Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Another community-based organization (CBO) from west Pokot in Kenya asked us to implement the same project in their community. We had limited financial capacity under our institutional grants to extend our anti-FGM reach there. However, with support from families and friends like you, we have begun working in west Pokot in a limited capacity to try to help. We are giving access to our proprietary educational modules to the head of the CBO so they can be deployed to the schools in west Pokot. We also enabled them inviting stakeholders to a community/parent meeting to discuss the harms of FGM and gave them access to our parent educational module. We are also running a radio ad in the local language that is impacting both community members and authorities’ actions in relation to FGM. The ad highlights the harms of FGM, the criminal illegality of FGM, and the risk of fines and jail time for those practicing FGM. This ad is putting clans and tribal leaders on notice, as they are the single biggest barriers in complying with the Presidential Decree that outlaws FGM.

Socioeconomic burdens of COVID-19 continue harming the girls and their families in Kenya. Therefore, our field officers are forced to provide health-related handouts, such as sanitary pads or masks, as they visit the girls. We are providing them with reusable masks that carry the message of “Stop FGM” in the local language. And we are creating physical spaces for women and girls to use sewing machines to make these masks locally, empowering them economically.  The field officers give the masks out to the “at risk” girls as they visit them. These masks are durable and reusable, helping to reduce environmental degradation. Each mask is costing us one US dollar. Perhaps you would consider supporting us for $10, $20, $50 or $100 so we could provide masks to all who are visited by the field officers and their community members.

The closure of the schools because of holidays has put all of us on high alert as we are hearing some families are planning to cut their girls during these “opportunity moments”. We are positioned to rescue them, as we have since Covid started, and have already initiated conversations with schools that can be used as sanctuary camps. Please help us to keep them safe!

We know we have moved the needle, but we also know that a tipping point can only be reached when changed attitudes and behaviors that result from our sustained effort become the new norm for the community. For this we need your continuous generous support. We believe that we can put an end to this pernicious practice, and that we can amplify and make sustainable our own work if we can get donors to support our efforts to scale up our activities, so that the practice of FGM becomes a relic of the past.

That is why we need your support now to continue these activities, replicate them in other communities and scale up our efforts. Girls in FGM-practicing communities are desperate, and we are desperate to help them. But we cannot do it without further funding. It is your contribution that has made Last Mile4D’s work possible. We ask you to continue your support for our intervention efforts on behalf of the girls, so they can reach their dreams of a better life.

To add credibility to our work, we are providing you evidence of our efforts and successes, which were highlighted in a brief co-authored with and published by the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW). We were able to demonstrate how merging technology with community-centered programming and consistent outreach and monitoring and evaluation contributes to the elimination of FGM.

Please help keep us changing the attitudes and norms with your generous support.

Please follow us on Instagram and Twitter @LastMile_4D. Also, visit our website at www.lastmile4d.org to learn about our work and make contribution to us, directly during the year. We appreciate your support as some of you have opted to be a recurring donor, which brings matching dollars from GlobalGiving to us as well. Million thanks for supporting us.

Economic Empowerment of local women and girls
Economic Empowerment of local women and girls

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Girls Rescued
Girls Rescued

Our ongoing activities against FGM continue to have positive impact on the lives of girls. And we have made progress in getting buy-in from community leaders that are so important to changing the norms that perpetuate this damaging practice. The County Commissioner of Kuria, Kenya, the site of our first anti-FGM initiative, continues to boast of our success and has asked us to continue raising awareness about the harms of FGM among the clans. Clan and tribal leaders are the single biggest barriers in getting compliance with the Presidential Decree that outlaws what has become a silent crime that is seldom enforced. Reaching them is a game changer.

But we have also gained traction in making the girls aware of their legal and moral rights. Girls outside of our initial cohort, who have become aware of our work are reaching out to convey to us their fear of being cut and expressing their desire to stay in school so they can go to universities and experience a fulfilling life. Should they fall prey to the scourge of FGM, a bright educational and economic future will be denied to them.

One of the girls in our cohort, Boke is her name, told us her sister underwent FGM when she was 14 and was married off right away. In the three years since she married, she gave birth to two children. She has lived a tragic life with a 50-year-old husband who beats her and deprives her of the financial wherewithal to buy food for her and the two children. Boke pleaded with us, saying she does not want this kind of life.  She has dreams and hopes, but fears that her parents’ poverty, accentuated by COVID, will lead them to cut her too. If this happens, they will marry her off, dooming her to a life like that of her sister.

But unlike her sister, Boke luckily is enrolled in our program. Our technology powered early warning and risk assessment system, combined with our community outreach and intervention, has allowed us to put mechanisms in place to keep Boke and others in our cohort safe. However, sadly, this is not the case for other girls not enrolled in our project.  

Direct intervention to save girls at risk is not nearly enough, however. We also attack the attitudes and behaviors about FGM in the broader community, an effort that takes many years. Without the help and buy-in of the community, FGM will be perpetuated, no matter how many girls are saved. We know we have moved the needle, but we also know that a tipping point can only be reached when changed attitudes and behaviors that result from our sustained effort become the new norm for the community.

That is why we need your support now to continue these activities, replicate them in other communities and scale up our efforts. Girls in FGM-practicing communities are desperate, and we are desperate to help them. But we cannot do it without further funding. It is your contribution that has made Last Mile4D’s work possible. We ask you to continue your support for our intervention efforts on behalf of the girls, so they can reach their dreams of a better life.

To add credibility to our work, we are providing you evidence of our efforts and successes, which were highlighted in a brief co-authored with and published by the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW). We were able to demonstrate how merging technology with community-centered programming and consistent outreach and monitoring and evaluation contributes to the elimination of FGM. 

Please help keep Boke and other girls safe from FGM by continuing your generous support.

Please follow us on Instagram and Twitter @LastMile_4D. Also, visit our website at www.lastmile4d.org to learn about our work and make contribution to us, directly during the year. We appreciate your support as some of you have opted to be a recurring donor, which brings matching dollars from GlobalGiving to us as well. 

Links:

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Access to Knowledge
Access to Knowledge

Based on our efforts, and in collaboration with Kenyan authorities, we rescued 140 girls from late August through December, returning most safely to their homes by November. Some were part of the 1,000-girl cohort we have been working with over the last 19 months, and others came from the broader community, due to increased Covid-related demand for anti-FGM efforts. Before sending them home, and in the presence of authorities, we met with their parents, extracting assurances from them that they will not harm the girls. We continued (and still continue) monitoring the girls, even after they have left the rescue camp we helped establish as a safe haven. We still have six girls in our custody with the authorities’ permission, as their home environment is not safe for their return. We know that there are not enough shelters to save all the girls in danger of FGM. But we are maximizing our impact by practicing community coordination, working on attitudinal and behavioral changes, and integrating our efforts with enforcement of existing laws against FGM.  

Our overall success in preventing FGM has come from our coordinated effort involving community leaders and authorities. In a brief co-authored and published by the International Center for Research on Women, we highlighted the successes of our efforts. Results from our program indicate that it is a promising way to identify girls at risk for FGM in time and mitigate the risk. We are able to demonstrate how merging technology with community-centered programming and consistent outreach and monitoring and evaluation contributes to the elimination of FGM. The consistent outreach has been systematized using our efficient VPack powered data collection program, coupled with one-on-one contact and monitoring of the girls at greatest risk of FGM. Timing was also a determinant of success. Sheltering girls during the season when FGM risk was peaking mitigated their risk; allowing girls who otherwise would have been cut to return to school in January unscathed.

The promising results from this FGM program indicate that community engaged FGM programs with VPack powered real-time monitoring, benefited young girls and should be replicated elsewhere. We have demonstrated the effectiveness of educating communities about the economic, health and emotional harms caused by FGM, and then complementing this with our meticulously recorded real-time data and just-in-time interventions.

That is why we need your support now to continue these activities, replicate them in other communities and scale up our efforts. These girls are desperate, and we are desperate to help them. But we cannot do it without further funding. It is your contribution that has made Last Mile4D’s work possible. We implore you at this critical time to continue your support for our intervention efforts on behalf of the girls, which gives them a shot at a brighter future.

Please follow us on Instagram and Twitter @LastMile_4D. Also, visit our website at www.lastmile4d.org to learn about our work and make contribution to us, directly during the year. We appreciate your support as some of you have opted to be a recurring donor, which brings matching dollars from GlobalGiving to us as well.

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Last Mile4D

Location: Washington, DC - USA
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Twitter: @mmharrison2014
Project Leader:
mahnaz harrison
Washington, DC United States
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