Mera and Embu Counties, Kenya – As part of its work towards the abandonment of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) in selected communities in Kenya, AWEPA facilitated two parliamentary outreach visits to the Counties of Meru and Embu on 15 and 16 September 2016.
The visits, which were organised in collaboration with the Kenya Women Parliamentary Association (KEWOPA) and the Kenyan Parliament, united women parliamentarians from across party lines with the local communities in these counties.
The legislators reached out to women and men in the communities in a bid to change local perceptions of FGM/C. Throughout the outreach sessions, they sought to initiate dialogue among community members and stakeholders, as well as to identify and engage key partners in coming up with strategies to combat FGM/C in the county.
Both outreach visits were inititiated by the Parliamentary Anti-FGM Caucus, a group formed by AWEPA in close coordination with KEWOPA.
The session in Meru County, held on 15 September, brought together opinion leaders, elders and representatives of the church and judiciary, who joined the women parliamentarians in denouncing FGM/C. Following group activities and fruitful debate on the way forward, these community members signed declarations on their role in bringing an end to the harmful traditional practice in the county.
Among the recommendations which emerged based on the local context, it was decided that continuous awareness-raising forums should be held, particularly in remote areas of the County, in order to highlight the health risks of FGM/C and other harmful traditional practices.
Another strategy to be employed in Meru County to educate traditional circumcisers on the dangers of FGM/ and the law prohibiting the practice, as well as the offer of alternative income to enable them to earn a living.
In these ways, among others, it is hoped that community-level change can be witnessed in Meru County, with deep and long-lasting changes in local perceptions of FGM/C.
The Embu County visit on 16 September adopted an equally community-led response, with elders, reformed practitioners and representatives of the church, among other strategic members of the community, sharing best practices towards abandonment of FGM/C. Participants discussed the challenges faced in the abandonment of FGM/C and developed a way forward, which was also formalised in an agreement signed by all parties.
Given significantly high prevalence of FGM/C in Embu County, where an estimated 51.4% of women have undergone the cut, it was deemed necessary to put in place a strong and long-term approach that puts the community at the centre of ending the practice.
Participants agreed that there is also a need to tap into the existing infrastructure, either in the form of the government offices and officers or non-state actors, in order to make progress towards ending FGM/C