Female genital mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures that involve altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons and is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women.
It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women and girls. The practice also violates their rights to health, security and physical integrity, their right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and their right to life when the procedure results in death.
In 2012, the UN General Assembly designated 6 February as the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation. This day is observed to enhance awareness of the issue and to encourage concrete actions against the practice.
The International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation is an international awareness day promoting the abandonment of FGM, aiming to engage whole communities in focusing on human rights and gender equality and addressing the sexual and reproductive health needs of women and girls who suffer from the consequences of FGM.
To promote the abandonment of FGM, coordinated and systematic efforts are needed, and they must engage whole communities and focus on human rights and gender equality. These efforts should emphasize societal dialogue and the empowerment of communities to act collectively to end the practice. They must also address the sexual and reproductive health needs of women and girls who suffer from its consequences.
The Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK) seeks to use the media to promote an informed and gender responsive society in Kenya and wider Africa. We continue to play an important role in various media and community awareness campaigns against child labour, child sexual abuse and various forms of child exploitation, including Female Genital Mutilation.
Having conducted inter-generational dialogue forums over the last 8 months in partnership with the Girl Generation on how to end FGM ,AMWIK started year 2018 with the launch of an essay/ arts competition in schools in Kuria, Migori County.
By Anne Sokoto
While you might think that Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is fast coming to an end in Kenya, the practice is still widely celebrated across different communities. Among the Kuria community in Migori County, the practice continues to threaten access to education for thousands of girls, with estimates from the Kenya Demographic Health Survey 2014 showing that at least 3 in every 5 girls might not complete basic education as a result of the practice.
Strong cultural structures have sustained FGM practice among the Kuria people for decades, with girls and families that reject the cut often regarded as community outcasts. 20 year old Bettina is one such girl in her community and is among the lucky girls to escape the cut. As a result, Bettina and her family of six sisters have been shunned away and abandoned by their clan and community who now regard them as outcasts.
Bettina’s education is no longer a guarantee because she rejected circumcision. Besides, her family members in Remanyanki village cannot freely participate in community social gatherings since they have collectively refused to embrace the knife for their girls, the community’s cherished rite of passage into adulthood.
The effects of FGM on the sexual and reproductive health of women and girls cannot be refuted. Judith, 23 years old and a mother of three narrates how the once colorful ceremony complete with gifts, praises and a bull slaughtered to celebrate her transition to womanhood marked a turn-around in her life. Circumcised at 12 years old, Judith was very happy with her decision to undergo the cut. “I could now be regarded as an adult by the community. Even my parents could no longer punish me at will as I was now mature,” she explains. Immediately after her class 8, Judith got married at 13 years, marking the beginning of a new painful chapter in her life, ‘in all my three deliveries I had to undergo surgery due to birth complications,’ she remarks noting, “I have never delivered normally since then and the process keeps becoming painful.” Asked about her peers who did not get circumcised, “they are in a better place than I am, they completed their education, some up to University level and got good jobs,” she explains sadly.
Angeline (not her real name), a mother of two was also married before her 13th birthday having been circumcised at only age 11 years. She explains that delivering her two babies has been a life-threatening experience. “My births have been very painful and I have always wondered why my younger sisters did not experience the same problems. During my second delivery the doctor said it was a miracle I survived.”
Despite the well documented reproductive health challenges on the lives of women and girls globally, ignorance, lack of awareness and emerging trends of medicalization and reducing age of circumcision continue to hinder efforts to eradicating FGM practise. Amidst these stumbling blocks is a legal petition in the High Court, seeking to declare Kenya’s Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act 2011 illegal (https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/health/article/2001264973/doctor-fight-to-legalize-fgm)
In contributing towards efforts to eradicate the practice among communities, the Association of Media Women in Kenya, AMWIK, in collaboration with Girl Generation has given young people in Kuria a platform to hold inter-generational dialogues on FGM. Using live radio talk shows and radio listening clubs, young boys and girls now understand the myths that sustain the practise in their community, the health dangers of the cultural practice, and laws that seek to protect the rights of women and girls against practices considered harmful to their health.
With the knowledge gained, Judith has since shelved the idea of circumcising her daughters as she had initially planned, thanks to the listening and dialogue sessions. “I have learnt the cause of my challenges; the pain, swelling and complications during delivery, she says adding, “and we have agreed with my husband that we’ll never circumcise our daughters.”
She confidently explains to her peers about the effects of FGM, “I have been talking to my friends even at the market and they agree that FGM is harmful,” she notes.
For Angeline, her initially nostalgic past has fast faded away as she promises not to circumcise her daughters. “I know what circumcision has cost me,” she remarks, adding, “I am happy for the radio listening sessions because I know where my problems started from and I will not let any of my daughters drop out of school and face the same challenges I went through.
Among the beneficiaries of the intergenerational radio sensitization forums is Ms Wasike, a member of Maranatha Faith Assemblies Church in Kuria West sub-county, Migori County. Wasike, 57, says she has been educating her children and grandchildren on the harmful effects of the practice.“At first it was hard for my children to believe what I was telling them, that they should never cut their girls, but I explained how FGM affects marriage and the relationship between spouses,” she narrates. She confides that her own experience with the practice convinced her family members to embrace her new position on FGM.
Wasike regrets that Kuria men have often married women from neighboring communities that don’t circumcise their girls while leaving their circumcised wives. But with knowledge from the radio lessons, she quips, “I am optimistic that my community will soon stop circumcising girls.”
Stalking, sexual violence, verbal abuse and death threats are the most common forms of online violence faced by women journalists in their line of duty.
This is according to a new baseline survey, Women Journalist’s Digital Security, which was launched by AMWIK in partnership with Article 19 to mark the World Press Freedom Day.
The report gives an in-depth analysis into the various risks and dangers which women journalists face while working online. Indeed the internet has dramatically evolved in the recent past to become one of the major resources in collecting and disseminating information to the public. Besides being a global tool of communication, it is also a vital link between journalists, their sources and their audiences.
However, the tech-space has its own disadvantages because it also brings together criminals in the form of cyber-stalkers, bullies and conmen. According to the survey, 75 percent of the journalists interviewed said they have experienced online harassment in the course of their work.
Academicians Nancy Booker and George Gathigi
Other forms of attacks charted in the survey include hacking, trolling, defamation, public shaming, identity theft and name-calling. Of the four online platforms studied in the survey, Facebook was the most popular for Technology Assisted Violence against Women (TAVAW). It was closely followed by WhatsApp, Blogs and finally Twitter.
Needless to say, this Technology Assisted Violence against Women (TAVAW) causes women journalists to shy away from the internet space, consequently affecting their productivity at work. One journalist in the survey is quoted as saying “I lost my confidence and shied away from the general public.”
The report also brings to light the challenges faced by victims in the pursuit of justice for cyber-crimes. For instance, it mentions that the Police Cyber-crime Unit has not been devolved to other counties despite the high penetration rate of internet in these areas. As such, victims in other counties face a challenge when it comes to accessing justice for these crimes. KCA Chair William Oloo-Janak While launching the research, AMWIK Chairperson Pamela Mburia said the most urgent recommendation as outlined in the report is to invest in social, legal and practical tools which media practitioners, particularly women in the media can use to protect themselves from attacks.
“The bolder, louder and more visible a woman journalist is, the more the probability of facing technology assisted violence,” she said adding “we feel that we still have a long way to go before media women can take their rightful place in newsrooms and in virtual platforms.”
The survey was published in partnership with Article 19 East Africa with support from the Deutsche Welle Akademie. Two separate documents were also launched at the forum including a Baseline Survey on the Safety and Protection of Journalists in South Sudan and Academic Curricula and Training in Journalism and Safety in Kenya.
(From left) Charles Achaye-Odong and Jutta vom Hofe of DW Akademie,
John Gachie of Article 19 and Pamela Mburia of AMWIK
AMWIK with the support of Ford Foundation held community forums in Malindi and Garsen towns to sensitize communities on ending gender based violence. AMWIK in collaboration with 10 community groups from the two towns has been implementing a project on strengthening access to information on gender based violence.
The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence is an international campaign that starts on 25 November, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and ends on 10 December, Human Rights Day. The campaign hopes to raise awareness about gender-based violence as a human rights issue at the local, national, regional and international level. This year’s theme was ”Let’s challenge militarism and end violence against women”.
During the community forums, AMWIK focused on engaging law enforcers in ending violence against women and girls in the the two constituencies which has among the highest rates of sexual violence in the country. The Executive Director Ms. Helen Obande emphasized on the need of law enforcers to work together with the communities and other stakeholders in ending gender based violence. ” Justice to sexual violence victims can only be achieved if the community reports the cases to the law enforcers. The law enforcers should also be proactive in following up the cases so that the community can gain confidence of its law enforcers ultimately increasing reported cases. ” She said.
The Tana Delta Officer in the Commanding Police Division (OCPD) Mr. Robison Thuku called on the men to support women and help in ending violence against women. ” Our culture is more too blame when it comes to gender based violence because of its patriarchal nature. It is because of this that women fear reporting GBV cases for fear of intimidation.” Salome Morowe the Assistant Chief in Garsen demystified the notion that gender issues were a reserve of the women. She challenged the men to rethink the concept of gender and view it from a human rights perspective because that would convenience them on the need to end gender based violence.
Civil society speaking up for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) Recommendations for donors Policy brief No.3 has been released. The policy Brief based on an informal survey conducted between March and May 2012 among Kenyan civil society organizations (CSOs) working on SRHR among them AMwik was ment to contribute to the policy dialogue with donors and CSOs on SRHR policies and programmes.
AMWIK works to build a society that respects women’s rights and has over the years partnered with various organizations in implementing activities aimed at stopping gender based violence, which not only violates women’s rights but also militates against their advancement.
Under this programme, AMWIK has implemented the Stop FGM/C Campaign in partnership with the Italian Association for Women in Development (AIDOS) and Audiodoc which has involved awareness creation on FGM/C through community radio listening and media sensitization on use of radio audio documentaries as an innovative media tool to help foster the abandonment of FGM/C under the support of by the Italian Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
AMWIK also implements various programmes to raise awareness of media and communities during the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence, with support from UNICEF. Other projects under this have included the simplification and dissemination of the Sexual Offences Act of 2004 to community members in select districts in the country and Creating Awareness on Violence against Women Using ICTs in Central Kenya, Media Campaign to End Workplace Sexual Violence and a campaign to counter human Trafficking in Kenya.
Under this programme AMWIK also focuses on increasing awareness of women’s human rights among communities in Kenya through human rights advocacy interventions, especially targeting marginalized and vulnerable groups that include the media, youth, victims, and minority ethnic groups.