At a colourful event in Loitokitok, Kenya, near the border with Tanzania, 1,200 Maasai girls marked their transition to womanhood without experiencing Female Genital Cutting (also known as Female Genital Mutilation, or FGM). Watch the TV story as it aired in Kenya.
During the Alternative Rite of Passage ceremony, attended by community leaders and members, the girls received blessings from cultural elders to symbolize a new beginning and to recognize them as advocates against Female Genital Cutting.
“I want more girls in my community to be given more education because I do not want the cut. I also want girls to be given their rights. Previously, only boys were educated but Amref Health Africa started a programme to ensure all girls in my community go to school,” said 11-year-old Shiluni Shirim, one of the participants in the Alternative Rite of Passage ceremony.
The ceremony was attended by Kajiado County Commissioner Kello Harsama, Chairperson of Anti-Female Genital Mutilation Board Hon Jebii Kilimo, Amref Health Africa global CEO Dr. Githinji Gitahi, Amref Flying Doctors in Netherlands CEO Patricia Vermeulen, Acting Country Director of Amref Health Africa in Kenya Peter Ofware, as well as thousands of community members, partners and donors.
Amref Health Africa in Kenya’s program was first developed in 2009 in Magadi and Kajiado regions of Kenya. In partnership with cultural elders, mothers, girls and young men in Maasai communities, Amref Health Africa’s work focuses on the harmful health effects of Female Genital Cutting. The communities take ownership of creating an alternative to Female Genital Cutting that serves the same purpose without girls experiencing cutting.
Female Genital Cutting, a long-held cultural practice among Maasai communities, has been outlawed in Kenya since 2001 under the Children’s Act and Chapter 586 of the Laws of Kenya, although it is still practiced.
To date, over 7,000 girls have denounced the practice and undergone the cultural community-led alternative to female circumcision through Amref Health Africa’s project, funded by the Dutch Postcode Lottery in partnership with the Ministry of Health.
Photos by Kennedy Musyoka