A giant work of art touching on female circumcision welcomes you as you approach the picturesque Lomut and Chesogon trading centres in West Pokot County.
One part of the poster shows a girl forced to undergo circumcision but dies in the process. In another, a girl reports the matter to law enforcers who arrest the circumcisers and make them face the law.
This is a clear illustration of how female genital mutilation (FGM) is deeply rooted among the Pokot and other pastoralists in the country.
However, a campaign to end the outlawed practice is gaining momentum as activists, a growing number of parents and girls, with the sustained support of international human rights agencies, and the media join in the struggle.
The Guardian, a British national daily newspaper, and the Nation Media Group recently formulated UNFPA/Guardian grants and awards for perfect journalism as effective means to end FGM in Kenya and other parts of Africa.
Primary school girls in West Pokot took part in the poster drawing competition sponsored by the Guardian and supported by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as a part of an intensified campaign against circumcision.
Ten girls were the finalists in the competition at Ortum Girls Primary School in Pokot Central. Consolata Lokiru, 14, was the winner while Ivy Lomeyan was second.
Lokiru entered the competition after her friend committed suicide for being forced to face the knife by her parents. “My poster shows a group of girls and parents who are against a girl being forced to undergo the cut, who she later dies.
Two other girls report the incident to police officers who arrest the parents,” she said in an interview.
Likewise Lomeyan entered the competition, expected to create awareness on the dangers of FGM in the community, after her friend died last year from excessive bleeding after the cut.
“My friend died at Kapenguria Hospital after she bled excessively. I felt sorry after losing a close friend and since then, I vowed to be an anti-FGM ambassador,” she said.
The Guardian improved on the poster designed by the pupils and the artwork is now on seven key roads as a warning of the dangers posed by the outdated culture.
The newspaper in the spirit of its Global Media Campaign to End FGM is to partner with the Kenyan media in fighting the vice.
“We appreciate that the Guardian agreed to improve on the poster that will be erected across the county. It is now the role of the government and well-wishers to set up rescue centres in the area,” said Ms Domitila Chesang, an anti-FGM advocate and the brain behind the poster drawing competition.
She said that the Guardian had pledged to pay school fees for the winner — Lokiru — through high school.
Kapstena Tipin Rutwoo group is involved in the installation of the signboards in various trading centres.
“We have erected signboards in Lomut and Chesogon and the plan is on to install them in other places. Many people will read the messages that will help in the fight against FGM,” said Ms Chesang, who became an anti-FGM ambassador after escaping the knife at the age of 11 years.
She said the practice had adversely affected the education of girls as most drop out of school after the cut, hence the increased rate of illiteracy.
More than 200 girls aged between 12 and 17 in Pokot Central recently underwent alternative rites of passage instead of facing the knife.
They learnt various aspects of life compared to what is taught during the cut. Circumcision is performed annually in the month of December.