Kenya promises to end FGM as a milestone for girls

Ending FGM will enable the girl to participate fully in the national DVP, says President Kenyatta. PHOTO / PSCU
Ending FGM will enable the girl to participate fully in the national DVP, says President Kenyatta. PHOTO / PSCU

Tribal leaders in northern Kenya on Friday pledged to end female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage in their communities. This has been described by President Uhuru Kenyatta as an “important milestone” in strengthening girls’ rights.

One in five women and girls between the ages of 15 and 49 in Kenya have undergone FGM, which usually involves removing part or all of the female genitals, and which, according to the United Nations, can cause serious health problems.

Kenya banned the widely condemned practice a decade ago, but it continues in some communities such as the semi-nomadic Samburu tribe, who see it as necessary for social acceptance and improving their daughters’ marriage prospects.

About 86% of women and girls in Samburu have been cut, according to the UN Children’s Agency UNICEF and Kenyatta. The statement by the Samburu Elders to end FGM is an important step towards achieving its goal of eradicating the practice by 2022.

“My father used to obey and respect traditions, and so should we. In doing so, however, we should identify traditions that harm our children and drop them and only move on with those that matter to them, ”Kenyatta said during a declaration event in Samburu County.

“The girl, like the boy child, can be taught about very important traditions in our communities so that they can graduate as adults without getting hurt,” he added.

About 23% of Kenyan girls are married before they turn 18, says UNICEF. Many are also exposed to FGM, which is considered a “rite of passage”, before marrying.

In the Samburu community, the prevalence of child marriage is around 17% according to a 2017 UNICEF survey.

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