Guest Blog by Brighter Communities Worldwide: Working with Communities to End FGM in Kericho County, Kenya.


10 October 2017

Brighter Communities Worldwide is a community based organisation with 15 years of experience delivering results in health, particularly maternal health, education, water/sanitation, and economic empowerment. We were founded as Friends of Londiani in 2002; our name change came about as a result of our growth and expansion beyond the physical area of Londiani. Our model of community development focuses on creating an enabling environment for communities to realise change and we use a partnership based approach to deliver programmes that meet the needs of communities and individuals. Creating brighter communities means ensuring:

  • Access to good, affordable health care
  • Education to help people find a job and be able to articulate their needs 
  • An income that can sustain a family
  • Healthier lives with a supply of clean water and better facilities.

We are currently working in Kenya and Uganda.

In 2009 we incorporated a Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) Abandonment programme into the scope of work we were doing with communities in Kericho County; the need for this programme was identified from within communities. The overall aim of the FGM/C Abandonment programme is to transform the social convention of cutting girls and encourage the mass abandonment of the practice, which is infringing on Girls’ Human Rights and replacing it with a safer culturally-appropriate alternative. There are five parts to this programme including:

  1. Community-based Education Programme;
  2. Provision of reproductive information and educative materials;
  3. Alternative Rites of Passage (ARP) Courses;
  4. Working with Health Workers and
  5. Positive Public Affirmation.

Our FGM/C Abandonment Programme runs on a year-long cycle with activities being carried out throughout the year. Facilitators meet regularly throughout the year, and the ongoing engagement of this group of people is critical to the success of the programme. Activities include an Annual Learning Seminar, training in facilitation skills, recruitment of new facilitators and guidance in sensitisation and mobilisation techniques. The programme plan and methods used have proved effective in bringing change to the communities in which they have been run.

Sensitisation takes place in communities throughout the year at a variety of events and public gatherings. Without sensitisation, knowledge sharing and mobilisation of men, women, girls, and boys, the programme cannot be successful. It also needs the buy-in and support of the power brokers (senior figures including Chiefs, Community Leaders, Elders, Pastors, and Members of the County Assembly) in a community. This is not an overnight process, and takes a huge amount of time, energy and commitment on the part of Brighter Communities Worldwide staff and facilitators.

(ARP Facilitators with Brighter Communities Worldwide Staff)

In October each year, all facilitators gather for a workshop to discuss the upcoming mobilisation and ARP course programme. It is at this meeting that FGM/C hotspot communities will be identified and agreed for that specific year. These are put forward by each facilitator and will be based on the knowledge they have about their own communities; Chiefs and Community Leaders will also provide input on FGM/C hotspots through the Brighter Communities Worldwide office. The potential venues will be decided and dates for courses agreed.

 

Mobilisation of the communities usually begins after the workshop in October and will continue up to the time that the ARP courses start. Once the course venues and dates are confirmed by the Facilitators, mobilisation can begin in an area. This will involve the facilitators visiting hotspot areas and telling people about the upcoming courses. They will use Barazas (community meetings), church meetings, market days etc. as mobilisation venues. Facilitators will use posters and leaflets (in English and local languages) during mobilisation.

Alternative Rite of Passage Courses are held from mid-November to mid-December each year in hotspot areas, these are areas where there has been reported cases of FGM/C occurring. Each course caters for up to 50 girls, and is run over 5 days.

Course modules include:

  • Traditional rites of passage;
  • Body changes and Development;
  • Relationships;
  • Family & Household (Healthy homestead, food hygiene etc.);
  • Living positively with HIV/AIDS;
  • Self-Esteem;
  • FGM/C;
  • Economic Empowerment;
  • Health Care & Disease Prevention;
  • Maternal Health;
  • Morals & Ethics.

(“I feel empowered because it is real, what we have learnt; and from the course girls will have better futures.” 2016 - ARP Course Participant.)

The course also includes sessions on any issues that are prominent in the particular hotspot area, for example alcoholism or drug abuse. These modules have been developed since 2009 by women leaders working with facilitators and Brighter Communities Worldwide staff. The facilitators use a variety of training methods includes story-telling, group discussions, role plays etc. Local Power Brokers (people have influence in the community like local chiefs, elders or school principals) are encouraged to visit and endorse the course sessions.

On completion of the course the girls graduate through a “coming of age” ceremony. During the graduation ceremony the girls participate in activities including songs, plays, and dance to highlight what they have learned and inform the community that they have abandoned FGM/C and want to continue in education. Power Brokers are invited to the graduation ceremony, the involvement of Power Brokers is crucial at this point as they are the influencers in their communities, and can really drive change. They have a social duty to protect the girls’ interests, and to work with all community members in creating positive change. Members of the girls’ families, including men and boys, and older women, attend to celebrate with the girls. The girls are awarded a certificate and receive gifts (such as pens, copybooks) from their families to mark the occasion.

The Impact of our FGM/C Abandonment programme:

  • Since 2009, over 9,000 girls have graduated from Alternative Rite of Passage course.
  • Increased awareness and knowledge of the risks of FGM across the region.
  • Increased number of girls completing school across the region, less drop outs.
  • Increased knowledge on health and sanitation amongst course participants.

("I got involved because I wanted to change the future for marginalised girls". Naomi Chebet (31), ARP Facilitator with Brighter Communities Worldwide.)