FGM in Kenya


5 November 2019

FGM is short for “Female Genital Mutilation” and it is the action of removing part or all of the external female genitalia. It is widely known as female circumcision (FC). It is a harmful traditional practice that affects girls and women in at least 28 out of 46 African countries. It is estimated that 85 to 114 million girls and women worldwide are suffering the physical and psychological consequence of FGM. In Africa, it is estimated that more than 2 million girls are circumcised every year equivalent to 6,000 genital mutilation per day or 250 mutilations per hour. As an ancient tribal tradition, FGM has been adopted by many countries, particularly in Africa. It is wrongly believed to be a religious requirement and done to “protect” girls. Also, it is believed to prevent excessive clitoral growth and preserve virginity to ensure marriageability. Therefore, it has highly affected many village girls in Kenya with levels highest among Somali and Muslim women. From the age of six and up to teenage years, girls have forcibly undergone FGM. This action is a five-level effect; childhood, girlhood, marriage and sexual intercourse, pregnancy and childbirth, and later life.

Childhood – The moment she is being held down, this is where her lifetime trauma begins. She might bleed to death or she might survive the circumcision. However, she might get infections such as HIV and hepatitis. Also, psychological effects.

Girlhood –In her teenage years, during her menstruation, health problems increase. There is a retention of menstruation and is prone to infections. Absenteeism in school due to dysmenorrheal.

Marriage and Sexual Intercourse – Once married, there can be problems with penetration and it can be painful during sexual intercourse. This will lead to surgical operation and/ or infertility.

Pregnancy and Childbirth – During pregnancy, many of the girls will undergo a difficult level of labor and it will be prolonged. Eventually, she might end up having a stillbirth, and getting fistula – there will be an abnormal opening between her vagina and the rectum, and now she will have no retain of her urine. Many of the times, the husband ends up divorcing her and the girl becomes neglected and abandoned by her community and family.

Later Life – She will experience traumatic disorders, depression, isolation, mental problems, flashbacks of obstetric complications.

All this is caused by FGM. Therefore, our goal is to educate and empower girls, their families, and FGM survivors. As well as to educate the people of the harm and crime of FGM.

SIMAHO

Simaho organization was started in 1996 by eight indigenous nurses. They were brought together by the community’s felt needs. Today, six of these women remain as the founder members of Simaho. In 2009, Simaho became an NGO and its structures, policies, and constitution to govern the organization was developed. Simaho is under the umbrella of the NGO Coordination Board in Kenya. The mission of Simaho is to provide integrated health care services to the pastoralist community of Kenya so as to enhance quality of life.

After our 1 year project of going to villages in 2 different sub-counties, Garissa and Balambala, there has been a decrease of FGM on girls. Moreover, we have succeeded with Girl Generation (UKAid) who gave funding for 2017-2018, along with Islamic Scholars, law enforcement, local administration offices, health professionals, adult educators, and the community to educate and bring awareness to the sub-counties. February and March 2019, Simaho, through the small-scale support by Girl Generation, was able to facilitate emotional wellbeing to survivors in two sub-division in Garissa sub-county (Galbet and Waberi).

However, we need consistency to ensure the decrease of victims, and this is our goal to see that happen. Furthermore, by partnering with local organizations we will keep track of FGM patients who seek help from our resources. We have developed a reporting system which allows us to track FGM movements in every village. The workers and village leaders are vigilant in bringing the reports of gender-based violence cases to the authorities.

Sisters Maternity Home (Simaho) in Garissa, Kenya wants to continue educating Garissa sub-county and, at the least, 3 more sub-counties of the harm and crime of Female Genital Mutilation in order to bring an end to it.

With your help, we will:

- Reach learning institutions such as schools by educating children and the youth about the harm of FGM

- We will extend care to FGM survivors by offering to meet their physical and mental health needs

- We will provide resources, education, and psychological and health assistance for women who have suffered from FGM

- We will integrate FGM projects and maternal childcare.

About Zahra

I was 6 years old when I underwent FGM. My grandmother, not knowing the harm, was the one who did it to me. Regardless, I have fully forgiven her ignorant act. However, FGM brought me issues and they follow me until this day. Other than psychological, I had many pregnancy complications. In my 6 deliveries, I had to undergo episiotomy – I was fully cut to allow the baby to come out very fast. Otherwise, my surrounding tissues could have been destroyed and the baby could have died. Sadly, one of my 6 babies did not make it out. I’m left with only 5 wonderful gifts.

After getting married, while being a nurse, I found out that FGM was not ok. I then chose to protect my 3 daughters against this harm. However, it was a great battle protecting them because I became attacked for not wanting to cut them if I was cut. I had to fight a lot of stigma. Therefore, during the time, I did not want to mention that my daughters were not cut. Eventually, my daughters would ask me why I chose to not cut them as if they saw it unfair. I would always respond that later in life they will understand. It wasn’t until high school years, being in Mombasa, when they met many other girls that had not been cut. My daughters then became grateful for my courage in ending FGM for them. 

Being an FGM survivor, caring for other survivors in our clinic, and witnessing the harm it brings to mothers and their babies during birth, inspired us to go against the cultural norms and address the urgent need to end FGM.