Guest blog by 28 Too Many volunteer Alison Glennie.
28 Too Many is a UK based anti-female genital mutilation (FGM) charity working to end FGM across Africa and the diaspora communities through research, building community networks and international advocacy. The charity was founded by Ann-Marie Wilson who came across FGM while working in Sudan and she wanted to help local organisations who were trying to tackle this harmful practice. 28 Too Many’s aim is to provide knowledge, tools, best practice models and support networks which help anti-FGM campaigners and organisations working with communities bring about sustainable change to end FGM.
One of the ways that 28 Too Many will facilitate this change is through research contributing and it has published detailed country profiles on FGM in Kenya and Uganda. The purpose of these profiles is to provide greater understanding of issues connected to FGM, particularly within a wider framework of gender equality and social change. The profiles act as a benchmark on the current situation of FGM in both countries and have the potential to be used as resources for organisations to communicate initiatives, shape their own policies and programmes and network with each other and encourage collaborative strategies for change.
28 Too Many’s country profile report on FGM in Kenya (May 2013) confirms a significant reduction in the number of reported cases of FGM over the last 10 years. The report shows that prevalence has fallen from 37.6% (1998) to 32.2% (2003) to 27.1% (2008-9) and FGM is now criminalised in Kenya under the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act of 2011. The report also details that only certain ethnic groups practise and at varying rates. This results in significant regional variations of FGM occurrence, the highest prevalence being over 97% in the north-east region – inhabited by Somalis – and the lowest rate in the west at 0.08%. FGM is more common in rural areas and poorer regions, with a direct correlation to education levels. FGM is an important part of a ritual or celebration initiating a girl into womanhood in practicing Kenyan groups. Focusing on two groups, the Massai and Somalis, we can see variations in custom and belief surrounding FGM. There has been a slight but encouraging reduction in FGM prevalence rates among the Massai. In comparison, Kenyan Somalis practice FGM at an almost universal rate.
The country profile also provides an overview of the different strategies currently being used by organisations to combat FGM in Kenya and highlights these initiatives so that other bodies can consider a range of approaches and make informed decisions on their own programme structures and policies. Organisations need to tailor anti-FGM initiatives and strategies and programmes that have worked best in Kenya have been cooperative and inclusive. Moreover, schools and education programmes, religion, and the media play all play an important role in the elimination of FGM.
The prevalence of FGM in Uganda is very low in comparison to other countries in Africa where FGM is practiced and the country profile published in July 2013 confirms that he main regions in which FGM is practiced are the Eastern Region among the Sabiny ethnic group and Karamoja Region among the Pokot, Tepeth and Kadama ethnic groups. Among these ethnic groups, FGM is largely practised as a rite of passage and to ensure marriageability, and is closely associated with early marriage and bride price.
The Ugandan Member of Parliament, Dr Baryomunis, who tabled the anti-FGM bill before the Ugandan parliament asserted that by 2015 FGM would be no more in Uganda. The latest DHS figures, however shows in all regions other than the Eastern region the rate has in fact increased with the overall rates going up from 0.6% in 2006 to 1.4% in 2011, indicating resistance to the new legislation and anti-FGM programmes. However, gathering data on FGM in Uganda is challenging, partly because FGM is now often carried out in secret and the regions where FGM is practised are remote.
The report provides an overview of the different strategies being used by organisations in Uganda so that other bodies can consider different approaches in eradicating FGM and make informed decisions on their own programme structures and policies on the information provided. The role of education is particularly important in these regions of Uganda as when a girl completes her education she is less likely to undergo FGM.
Recommendations for Change
There are still many challenges to overcome before FGM is eradicated in both Uganda and Kenya but already 28 Too Many is identifying common themes necessary for positive change in both countries including:
1. Recognising cultural significance of FGM
2. Providing sustainable funding
3. Increased law enforcement
4. Increased use of media
5. Recognising role of faith-based organisations
6. Greater use of partnerships and collaborative projects
With over 56 organisations currently campaigning to end FGM in Uganda and 157 in Kenya, it is clear that there is drive and commitment among Ugandans and Kenyans to end FGM. 28 Too Many hopes its reports and on-going work will help to make their voices heard and lead to further positive change and the eventual total eradication of FGM from Africa and globally.
It has been through the tireless effort of researchers both in the UK, in country and between FGM practicing communities, different organisations and members of government who have all assisted 28 Too Many in accessing information produced for the reports. The profiles have provided a positive starting point in order to facilitate change and track progress in the future. 28 Too Many has carried out all of its work through donations and would like to thank those who have donated so far.
if you would like to help the campaign to end FGM please support the work of 28 Too Many. You can donate to support our work, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook or contact us for more ways to get involved.