Alternative rights of passage: a new model to end FGM
1: Amref Health Africa, Kenya
Female genital mutilation (FGM) continues to be practiced in various parts of the world and is a culturally and socially sanctioned gender subjugation effort that also undermines the health of women. Currently between 100 and 140 million girls and women worldwide have been subjected to FGM. It is estimated that 91.5 million girls and women above 9 years old in Africa are currently living with the consequences of FGM with another 3 million at risk of undergoing FGM every year. Objectives of the study: (1) To support the development and implementation of community owned laws and policies against FGM; (2) To have communities abandon FGM by changing their beliefs and perceptions on FGM; (3) To provide alternative right of passage that is safe and acceptable to the community. Materials and methods: This is an on-going interventional study done among communities in Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia that have high prevalence of FGM. Interventions include community education on dangers of FGM to change their beliefs and perceptions; use of community decision making structures to enhance acceptability and ownership of alternative right of passage; use of a different ceremony that enhances the girls’ rights as an alternative right of passage to FGM; and inclusion of community voices in the policy making process on FGM. Results: 15,000 girls have been saved from FGM through the alternative rite of passage since 2007; further, 1200 Maasai warriors (Morans), 150 traditional birth attendants, 500 cultural leaders and 250 religious leaders have publically denounced FGM and are promoting alternative right of passage. There has been less opposition to the FGM law from the intervention communities; local governments have allocated budgets for communities to carry out the alternative right of passage. Conclusion: FGM is practiced to mark a milestone in the development of a girl in communities that practice it and carries adverse consequences. Working with these communities on an alternative right of passage that is safe and secures the girl’s future is much more welcome by the communities than enforcing laws to force them to abandon the practice.
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