Following the launch of AWEPA/Plan’s Obligation to Protect (O2P): Agents of Change Unite against FGM/C programme in 2014 a seminar on FGM/C took place in Nairobi on 12 June 2015.
The seminar, which was organised jointly by AWEPA, Plan International Kenya and the Kenya National Assembly (KNA), called on parliamentarians from the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee; Health Affairs Committee and Labour and Social Welfare Committee to commit to getting justice for violated girls and women and step up the fight against Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C).
The event was well attended with a good gender balanced participation and brought together 85 participants, including Members of the three Kenyan parliamentary committees concerned and Kenyan Women Parliamentary Association (KEWOPA) alongside the Chair and other representatives of the National Anti-FGM Board, relevant ministries, NGOs, Plan International Kenya and AWEPA.
The objective of the seminar was to brief the MPs about the situation of FGM/C in Kenya and the gaps of the 2011 anti-FGM/C law. In addition, the seminar aimed to introduce the O2P programme to these MPs and to identify champions and focal persons within the KNA with whom the O2P programme will interact to achieve its objectives.
In addition, participants addressed the situation in Tharaka Nithi County, where the prevelance of FGM/C is significantly higher than the national average, as well as outlining ways to bridge the gap between the legal framework and the reality of FGM/C in Kenya.
The seminar took place in a pleasant, positive and interactive atmosphere. There were lively presentations given by the different speakers. Regarding the gaps in the 2011 anti-FGM/C law, it became clear that it is important for MPs to go to the areas where FGM/C is still practiced. According to Hon. Tiyah Galgal: “it is nice to have a law, but the people who can say no to FGM/C are not reached”.
Hon. Lina Kilimo, Chair of the Anti-FGM Board also emphasised the important role the parliamentarians play and called upon the MPs to protect their constituents against the practice of FGM/C by ensuring that the law is fully implemented. She explained to the audience the Swahili word for MPs, which is “Mjumbe”, which means someone who is sent to bring a message.
As a result of the seminar, and in order to facilitate parliamentary action/messages on the issue of FGM/C a parliamentary Caucus on FGM/C was created at the end of the seminar.
This Caucus consists of MPs from the three Committees present, among them KEWOPA members, as well as a representative of the Pastoralist Parliamentary Group, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution, the Ministry of Health, Plan International Kenya and AWEPA.
AWEPA and Plan Kenya are looking forward to working closely with this Caucus in the framework of the O2P programme and a first meeting of this new Caucus will be planned during the coming month.
Although Kenya enacted an anti-FGM Law in 2011, cases of FGM/C are still on the rise in many parts of the country. Currently, approximately 27% of women and girls in Kenya have been victims of FGM/C. The practice is deeply rooted in cultural norms in a number of countries, usually representing adulthood and considered a necessary rite of passage, which is an integral part of social acceptance in many local cultures. Since those who have undergone the practice are often considered ready for marriage, FGM/C may contribute to the sexual violation of girls, underage pregnancy and, by extension, increased school drop-outs and the disempowerment of women.
According to Ms. Carol Sherman, Plan International Kenya Country Director, the recent attention given to the issue of FGM globally, Kenya not being left behind, is a step in the right direction. “Although progress has been made in eliminating FGM, this practice is deep-rooted in communities therefore posing a challenge to law enforcers. Sometimes conflict of interest by law enforcers, and inadequate resources allocated for eradicating FGM hinders acceleration of completely eliminating it,” said Ms Sherman.