Inter-generational dialogue key in the fight against FGM
By Lilian Kaivilu
Martin Muriithi engages in an interactive conversation with pupils in ACK Nkorongo Primary School in Chuka, Tharaka Nithi County. He easily switches from English, Kiswahili and to their local dialect; allowing every pupil in the class to participate. Their discussion is centred on the dangers of female genital mutilation (FGM) and the legal implications on the practice that is outlawed in Kenya and other countries across the globe.
To Muriithi, this is a regular session that he, together with other change agents, hold with the pupils from different schools within the county. The platform allows the young people to freely discuss issues surrounding FGM in their county. “Unleashing Youth Power: One Decade Of Accelerating Actions For Zero Female Genital Mutilation” is this year’s theme for the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation that is being commemorated today across the globe.
In order to maximize on the gains made so far by different players, experts are calling on full participation of young people in the fight against FGM. According to Muriithi, young men particularly have a key role to play in the fight. “If we as young men agree not to marry girls who are circumcise
d, then I believe it will be a lesson to many,” he says. The young change agents are supported by Plan International’s Obligation to Protect Program, an anti-FGM project in Tharaka Nithi County.
Faith Mpara, the program manager says the young change agents are working closely with the Tharaka Council of elders. “This is because we believe that having an inter-generational dialogue to discuss FGM will bear much fruit,” she said. Mpara opines that if boys say no to marriage of girls who undergo the cut the move will be a good deterrent measure to the practice.
“We mainly engage children in schools during the school term. Our timing is due to the fact that over the holiday it is difficult to get children in a central point,” she says. According to Mpara, these young champions are not only role models but are also locals who speak language that the pupils can understand. The anti-FGM fora which started in 2015 initially targeted 42 schools in Tharaka North, Tharaka South and Igamba Ngombe Sub counties. Today, the fora are held in 15 more schools in the region.
United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) Representative for Kenya Ademola Olajide emphasized on the need to take advantage of the power of young people in the fight against FGM. “Young people have the voice, energy, the numbers and skills to come up with new ways of addressing this. Thus, the theme for this year is quite apt,” said Ademola.