Murugi in war on the female ‘cut’

Sunday August 30 2009

By NATION Team

Thirty-seven communities in Kenya are still carrying out female genital mutilation 10 years after the government banned it.

Gender minister Esther Murugi on Sunday criticised the custom, adding that it was most prevalent among the Maasai, where it is performed on 93 per cent of the women.

Speaking at Kinoru in Meru during a public declaration by the Njuri Ncheke to abandon FMG, Ms Murugi said the ‘cut’ was now being carried out secretly, even by trained medical professionals.

Ms Murugi said about 60 per cent of women in the Meru region undergo the rite, while in Central Province the figure stands at least 30 per cent.

“It is deplorable that these communities practise FGM despite the results often being tragic, with many women bleeding to death,” she said.

At the same time, a project to reward women who quit their work as female circumcisers with cows has begun to bear fruit in West Pokot.

The 10 women who received 20 cows have offered seven heifers, which will be given to other circumcisers in the fight against female genital mutilation (FGM).

The women were given the livestock six years ago by the Kapenguria-based Setat Women’s Organisation, which is involved in the fight against FGM in North Rift.

Setat executive director Lillian Plapan said the heifers would be given to circumcisers who agree to give up the custom.

“We realised that after talking to the circumcisers to stop FGM against young girls during our campaign, they went back to the custom due to idleness and we saw that one way of keeping them busy was to start an income-generating activity of their choice,” Mrs Plapan said.

About 2,000 girls drop out of school each year due to FGM and early marriages in West Pokot District.

Mrs Dorcas Ng’imor, a gender activist in North Rift, said many parents in the Pokot community still subjected their daughters to circumcision, and then married off soon after.

Female circumcision and early marriages have also been blamed for high school dropout among girls in the Kerio Valley region. The Marakwet Girls and Women Project has launched a campaign against FGM.

Reported by Charles Wanyoro, Peter Ng’etich, Edward Koech and Barnabas Bii