The International Day for Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation was marked on 6th February with calls to the youth to get immersed in the campaigns to end Female Genital Mutilation in Kenya.
Speaking at the Police grounds in Isiolo town, which hosted the event, Chief Administrative Secretary Hon. Rachel Shebesh who was the Chief Guest, said the youth have a critical role in ending the practice in their generation and ensuring that it does not cascade to the next generation.
The CAS decried the fact that women and girls have borne the brunt of the harmful consequences of FGM for a long time and therefore it was long overdue that the practice is eliminated once and for all.
She said investing in the youth is indispensable in the fight against FGM especially with significant population growth among the youth and their influence in society. She asked them to utilize their energy, numbers and influence in community to call for the end of the archaic practice.
“The youth have a role in creating awareness and educating parents and cultural leaders on the harmful effects of FGM to the girls and advocating that girls do not have to undergo FGM for them to be considered complete. The young people are the parents of tomorrow and they can make a decision not to take their own daughters through FGM. As government and in partnership with our development partners we are at hand to accord you all the required support,” said Hon. Shebesh.
She also explained that the government was not fighting cultural practices but was fighting harmful cultural practices that infringe on the rights and wellbeing of girls and women. She noted that the government resolved to come out strongly against the vice in response to cries of many women and girls who were suffering in silence and living with the complications associated with the cut.
The CAS also warned complacent Chiefs and Assistant Chiefs that they also risk arrests if the practice continues in their respective jurisdictions unabated. “The chiefs and the assistant chiefs know the people in their villages and the homes where girls are cut,” said the CAS adding: “To end FGM, we need to implement the law and it is very clear.”
She asked women who cut girls for a living to denounce the practice and instead apply for the affirmative action funds to start alternative businesses. “The cutters are few in number and are known in each village. They should be encouraged to down their and embrace alternative sources of income,” she implored.
UNFPA Kenya Representative Dr Ademola Olajide expressed his commitment to ensure that UNFPA walks with the government in ensuring that the Presidential Directive is achieved. “It is not our duty to question if the 2022 target will realized. We have to roll our sleeves and do all what we can to ensure we hit the target,” said Dr Ademola.
The international theme for the day was ‘Unleashing Youth Power: One Decade of Accelerating Actions for Zero Female Genital Mutilation by 2030’ which Kenya domesticated to: ‘Unleashing Youth Power: Accelerating Actions for Zero FGM by 2022.’
The day was preceded by a Youth Summit on FGM converging delegates from the 22 hot spot counties in Kenya and from within Isiolo to share on ways young people can spearhead ending the vice in their respective communities. The summit was a culmination of a youth caravan that transversed the counties of Samburu, Isiolo, Meru, Tharaka Nithi and Embu counties creating awareness on the consequences of FGM.
Isiolo County is one of the 22 FGM hot spots in Kenya with statistics indicating that about two-thirds (65%) of girls aged 15-19 have undergone the practice compared to the national average of 21%.