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Tuesday 25 November 2014

Kenya: We ask the Government that FGM is Taught in all the Schools

The are between 140 to 160 millions of women in the world have undergone Female Genital Mutilation, 3 million girls are  at risk every year only in the African continent. We do not need a treaty or a convention to acknowledge the irreversible health problems, which FGM leads to. Just as a mean of general understating, the main risks go from genital infections, to fistula, from heavy hemorrhages to complications during childbirth, from painful intercourse and menstruation to infertility, from septicemia to death. Without including the tremendous psychological effects of it: depression, sense of loss, lack of desire, anxiety, to mention some.  FGM for the above reasons has to be condemned as a violation of children’s and women rights.

The main justifications for FGM are religion and culture. No religion has ever demanded FGM to be practiced and culture is a transformative process which can change as we change and can’t be supportive of a crime such as FGM. 

In culture, people represent and identify themselves. In culture, people feel “safe”. Practicing communities say it is tacitly known that girls must undergo FGM when they reach the right age, as a way out from childhood to womanhood because culture demands it. But what happens when culture generates violence. Yes, violence is cultural. Violence does not exist in nature, so it is a cultural construct and as FGM is a form of abuse as it violates the basic rights and integrity of girls and women, it is a form of violence. We need to acknowledge that there’s no other way to eradicate violence (any form of violence) if not through culture itself. It is a big deal, indeed, because it requires a lot of guts to discuss one’s people principles and at the same time open to different perspectives on issues, which past generations gave for granted.

When communities object that FGM is unchangeable, they should try and look back at their history and see how many things have been modified since they were moving from land to land looking for pastures for their herds. It was in Kenya that Somali writer Nuruddin Farah said:  Today in Somalia ( which is also one of the countries in Africa with the highest rate of FGM) – people use I- phones and I -pads, is that not a sign of cultural change? So why they can’t change also their perception of FGM? This iworks for Kenya as well.

In a digital world where information and knowledge is accessible on a mass scale, where the “other” become more easily the mirror for ourselves, it is more difficult to think at culture as a static unchangeable thing.  If culture shows the symptoms of not changing, in a case where FGM is still justified as “cultural”, it is perhaps because is used by politics to control over women’s lives, suppressing gender equality, continuing to support the patriarchal system. Eradicating FGM is a call to revise culture, to change politics through culture (and not the other way around). It is about promoting a holistic vision through which occupy a new space and have impact, where tradition and innovation can stand side by side. 

Eradicating FGM should not be seen as a threat to people's culture. On the contrary acknowledging the danger of the practice, the inhuman conditions in which women are forced to live throughout their lives and protecting children from such an horrible abuse, is a way to change culture eradicating the bad of it and preserving only the good. Cultures and people changes, are mutable and transformative... people make and change culture not the other way around... 

We ask the Government of Kenya to ensure that  FGM is taught in all the schools of the country (in rural and urban areas), using adequate tools to engage with the students according to age, like educational workshops and the arts.  Children of today are the change makers of tomorrow. It’s necessary to provide girls of a proper education about FGM so that they can protect themselves and live a complete life.

If the children of today can acknowledge what FGM is, and what are the risks and consequences of this practice, tomorrow we could live in a world free of FGM. Children can educate their parents and together raise a public dialogue where FGM won't be a taboo anymore but part of a pro active discussion and confrontation on how to build a sustainable future for the country where children and women will be free of this form of abuse.  

By Valentina Aacava Mmaka

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