This was a day that rekindled the story on two young sisters who had taken refuge in a forest for three days with neither food nor water in Marakwet West District to escape forced circumcision as well as early planned marriages.
The two schoolgirls aged 14 and 16 had fled their home after they learned that they were to be circumcised the following day. Arrangements had already been made for the material day with friends and relatives having been invited to witness their ‘graduation from childhood into womanhood’’
Their mother had reportedly prepared them for the rite and to curse them if they dared to let her down. When she learned of their plans to escape, she called upon other women to help her lock the innocent girls in a house to prevent them but, the girls managed to escape through the window.
They were found by a vegetable vendor in the middle of Kamotony forest in Marakwet West District shivering and conversing in low tones.
In a twist of events, most painful, the two girls had informed the Provincial Administration who did not take any action.
Two months had passed after over thirty school girls were rescued from undergoing FGM as well as planned marriages in Pokot County.
Despite the fact that the government has been taking stern measures in an effort to eradicate the practice, more than three hundred and fifty girls had already been circumcised in Marakwet as many lined up to face the knife in Tot and Tunyo divisions of Marakwet East.
In spite of the 2001 Children’s Act in Kenya outlawing FGM, it was performed in medical facilities across these districts. As a result, only a handful of cases have reached the courts in recent years.
Subsequently, the 2010 UNDP report on Human Development Index (HDI) ranked Kenya number 87 and disclosed that, gender equity reflects women’s disadvantage in three dimensions reproductive health, empowerment and the labour market indicating women are poorer because the report went beyond income earnings focusing on the ends rather than the means of development and progress.
Zero tolerance for FGM can become a reality only if all appropriate sectors of government and civil society prioritize the protection of women and girls from FGM and coordinate their efforts in a proactive, sustained and planned manner.
Much has been done but more efforts have to be done, not by the government but the communities at large. Communities that still value such practices need to look for alternative rites of passage and do away with gruelling ordeals that leave the girls with permanent health problems that they live with throughout their lifetime.
On the other hand, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says in a new report that community-focused initiatives are proving effective in reducing the incidence of female genital cutting in Kenya
Efforts that address cultural and social dimensions of the practise have yielded better results than have blanket condemnations or appeals aimed at individuals, UNICEF finds.
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Further, the government must allocate additional resources to increase transportation for law enforcement, raise awareness among girls, make ample shelter arrangements for girls fleeing FGM, use community radio and local media to warn practising communities that FGM will not be tolerated, publicise arrests and prosecutions and equip courts to handle cases efficiently.
This is an abridged version of the original story written in 2011-02-06.