FGM : Finding an Alternative to Save Lives
By Clarissa Hughes –Group Positive Impact Co-ordinator
FGM: Finding an alternative to save lives
Practiced across the countries of the Sahel as well as Central, East, and West Africa, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is hazardous to the health of millions of young girls and women.
Asilia’s social development partner in Kenya’s Masai Mara is The Maa Trust. Together we are trying to find alternatives to FGM in order to save lives.
“Traditionally it was practiced as a rite of passage to prepare girls for marriage. In the absence of formal education, FGM marked a milestone in the transition from childhood to adulthood,” says Seleyian Partoip, The Maa Trust’s FGM Education Coordinator.
Despite it being outlawed in Kenya in 2011, modern communities continue to practice FGM for a variety of sociocultural reasons. These include:
- Girls are regarded as children unless they have been cut.
- Uncut girls are barred from participating in community functions, and the community boycotts their functions.
- During childbirth, uncut women cannot be attended to by traditional birth attendants as it is believed they cause bad luck.
- Uncut girls are bullied and isolated from the community.
- The parents receive gifts of livestock from their peers and increased status in the community when their daughters are cut.
- Increased status for the parents of cut girls.
- A cut girl is recognized as an adult and allowed to make decisions and take part in important community functions.
But what are the risks?
According to the World Health Organization, there are no health benefits whatsoever to FGM, and the consequences of this practice put millions of lives at risk.
From extreme pain (proper anaesthesia is rarely used) to excessive bleeding, shock, and genital tissue swelling and infection, the short-term risks are varied. They also include the possible spread of HIV, urinary problems, impaired wound healing, and even death. Furthermore, the pain, shock, and the use of physical force by those performing the procedure, often causes great psychological trauma.
And then there are the long-term health risks.
Continual pain where nerve endings are unprotected; painful urination; chronic genital, reproductive tract, and urinary tract infections; menstrual problems, HIV, and obstetric complications.
It is estimated that 600,000 girls die each year undergoing FGM. That’s 30% of the estimated two million who undergo it every year.
According to a 2004 study, 80% of Maasai girls still undergo FGM.
What are the solutions?
A multi-pronged approach is required as Partoip explains: “We are coordinating training for community anti-FGM ambassadors, as well as facilitating school education campaigns to break the stigma of FGM.”
In addition, alternative rite-of-passage celebrations are held, where girls go through a four-day residential program that equips them with life skills and educates them on the effects of FGM. At the end of the celebrations, the parents are invited to bless their daughter as a sign of transition. The girls are then awarded a certificate.
Empowering girls to live a life free from pain and health problems arising from FGM, so that they can lead constructive, modern lives is high on our agenda.
To assist us with this work please visit Asilia Giving.