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For Such a Time as This

Protocol: The conference is designed to serve as a conclusion to our efforts to combat female genital mutilation that began in 1995 with project “Innocence” (FGM). The goal is to bring together those at the forefront in the fight against FGM. It will act as a platform for collaboration and networking and as an interactive forum to get all stakeholders to understand and know how to integrate and plan programs in the community that address both the physical and the spiritual needs of their target group.

Approximately 100 participants from Kisii, Mount Elgon and Rarok districts gathered to discuss this brutal issue destroying their communities

This years conference objectives include:

a) Create a free atmosphere for discussion and interaction among participants.
b) To identify the historical roots of the ritual and current forces controlling the practice.
c) Educate participants on the far reaching implications of victims' health.
d) To inspire, energize and empower attendees with an understanding of the significant role of individuals committed at such a time as this to end the brutality.
e) To create the necessary alliances and leadership to develop and implement a systematic on-going program with the communities.

The program included testimonies by women who had undergone the operation as well as children who had stood firm and refused to be circumcised.

Mary's testimony

Mary said that FGM in Kisii is rampant, everybody knows about is, even little children are told about this rite. They believe that when girls pass through this rite they have grown into a woman and are ready to be married. That's why every girl child wants to go through this rite.

Members from Mary's community demonstrate what happens whilst Mary describes the following events: It starts the evening before the day of circumcision. The girl is taken to a house where circumcised women present tell her what to expect. These stories continue throughout the night.

Around 4 am the girl is taken to the river, has to take all her clothes off and then sit in the river. The water is very chilly, that early in the morning, and is supposed to make her numb so she won't feel so much pain. It didn't work because it is still so painful. Leaving the river, the girls are taken to a special place - everyone knows it - where no men are allowed. The girls are lined up, one by one, so her friends behind in the queue don't see what happens.

She has to take a place on a special stool. One woman puts her hand over her mouth whilst others wave tree branches, sing and dance. Now she is ready to associate with men. They welcome her in the home where meals were being prepared. Her mamma arrives via a special gate. The father and brothers sit in front of the house, next to the gate. She is given a special "wimby" stick and a special leave known as "arumbu", to show she is ready to plant food. She can use the stick to make traditional baskets used for harvesting.

When she's ready to leave, she comes out of the house; her father gives her a handshake and a woven basket. He tells her special words of blessing now she has done him proud, because parents of children without the rite are not respected in the community. Celebrations start; the community eats and dances outside. The girl cannot come out, there's only one woman who will bring her food. When she's in the house she gets a special tree that she has to water every day.

There's also a special fire lit that shouldn't go off until she leaves the house. If the fire goes out it is seen as a bad Oman, e.g. even she does get married, she won't be able to have children. After she's healed, checked by women, she goes to the river to bath. Afterwards she's taken to a special home. There her mama comes with special basket with meat inside to show she's blessed and can have her own cattle now. After this the girls is allowed to go to her house and meet friends and interact with anyone. The community makes sure she is married quickly now she is a woman.

Traditionalists want FGM to continue. Those who are educated want other rites. Mary, a nurse, used to practice circumcision. She tells her story below.

Nurse Mary's testimony

"Very young girls came to the hospital in the early hours. I put them in a small bed, washed my hands and put gloves on. I would disinfect and anaesthetize the vagina before cutting off the clitoris with a knife and scissors. Then I put disinfectant on the wound to prevent infections. Today we have come to say no to FGM because there are so many complications afterwards, for example, urine tube infections, HIV/Aids, hepatitis, and tetanus.

"Circumcised women do not enjoy sex with their husband, leading to broken families. The men go to the cities to look for women who aren't circumcised," the participants loudly applauded this remark, "let's put our hands together to fight against FGM."

Grace's testimony

Grace starts by saying that FGM is very painful. She was only 12 years old when she was taken from her grandmother's house at 5 am.

They took her to the river she recalls how cold the water was, in order to numb her body. She was taken with other girls of her age. She went first; she was naked and had to sit on a special stone. A very strong woman covered her eyes and mouth. "If you scream, you bring omen in your family."

The knife came down and it was painful, it wasn't too sharp and cut everything off. The pain was so bad it went into her head. She was in the house for over a month and desperately ill when they took her to the hospital, looking for medication. Grace felt how inhumane it is, so she will never do it against her daughters' wishes. God blessed her with 3 girls and she has kept her promise. Her daughters are adults now, almost married and performing well at school. This gave her a round of applause from the listeners.

When the wound is healed, Grace continues, there is a scar that isn't flexible. Therefore it is dangerous to give birth at home. Even the delivery in hospital is extremely painful. "For those of you that think about circumcision for yourself or daughters; DON'T DO IT!" she said.

The war against FGM went into schools, small girls listened and learnt about alternatives; the right to choose what to do. Children can make good choices. Give them a choice, an alternative to the knife. There is power in a new generation, a generation that can make a difference but only with our help. They are the heroes of today and the heroines of tomorrow. FGM is coming to an end!

Two young girls who escaped the knife were reading out a beautiful poem. The title was: "Oh mama should your daughter cry with you?" One of them was Esther, from Kisii who will share her testimony next.

Esther's testimony

Esther begins, "We are conquerors. We were given information and insight into FGM but it was difficult to resist the rite. We were seen as sources of friction in the community, we had a big problem with our grandmother who talked about it for years. I could resist because I was educated."

Esther couldn't stay with circumcised girls but persevered even after the other girls shut her out. Circumcised girls were brought gifts and good clothing but she wasn't given anything. One day, she went to her cousin to talk about FGM.

"My grandmother came for my cousin forcefully but she resisted with the help of my parents. The community came as the girl screamed and said we brought shame to the community. It created conflict between family members as the cousin stayed with me. People said we will become prostitutes and smell, but that didn't shake us. Now we say we are conquerors. Join your hands together and say no to FGM!!"

Zippora's testimony

"I was brought up in a Christian family and I knew that one day I would be circumcised. When my time came my mum said. 'Read from the Bible. Genesis 17 where Abraham was circumcised.' In the old days only boys were circumcised. The Bible doesn't say that girls should be circumcised. Mum said it was painful when she give birth to me. At that time I was so young I didn't even know where babies came from. So we were left out while all the other girls were circumcised. This meant that I didn't have any gifts and was teased at school and on the field. I couldn't even speak to the teacher about it, but mum did. As a result the girls who teased me were caned. Since then they started using my proper name and never teased again.

Zipporah goes on seminars into communities to inform parents in the fight against FGM.

After the individual presentations, the participants divided into groups to develop answers to ten prearranged questions as follows:

1. Regarding the history of the ritual, where did it originate, when, why and who started it?

Origin: It started from our ancestors (African Heritage, Forefathers). It started as a belief to the Kisii Community. It is done during the end of the year (December) and at age of about 10-15 years old (Kisii). It is done to Bukusu community between 10-20 years in every two years in the month of August when there is plenty of food. According to Bukusu community it is done to everybody of that age regarding to tribe.

Why: To pass from one age group to another (from childhood to adulthood).

  • You get rejected from the community
  • They believed you will have no children.
  • They believed you will bring the bad omen to the community hence causing some death.
  • They believed you will be a prostitute.
  • Reduce sex desire.

2. Do you think the practice should stop? Why?

Yes, female genital mutilation should stop. Reasons why we should stop:

  • This is because it brings ignorance into the community as it causes some girls to drop out of school to undergo it.
  • It causes early marriages as the practice is to prepare girls for marriage and parents get dowry.
  • It creates pride that leads to conflicts in the home as she feels she is also big enough to be a mother. Also it makes her to hate the other young siblings and the uncircumcised and abuse parents.
  • It leads to broken families. The woman feel that she is a 'man' in the family as she also went through the ritual.
  • It leads to high spread of HIV as many circumcised can't satisfy their partners. The men seek out prostitutes in the cities where they contract AIDS thus spreading HIV to the interior.
  • It leads to spreading of STDS and HIV from the un-sterilized tools (knives) and other diseases from the infected colleagues.
  • Leads to childbirth complications since raptures occur from the formed scar.
  • May lead to death from too much bleeding as those who carry it out are not qualified.
  • It sometimes cause infertility since the fallopian tubes are affected that also causes problems to the ovaries.
  • It contributes to poverty increase as a lot of wealth is used in the ritual ceremony.
  • It is an inhuman act as this is hostility to the body as it has no benefits to the body.
  • It leads to formation of Keloids on the place cut.
  • It causes pain during urination.
  • Since it promotes AIDS and the death of caregivers it adds to the already serious problem of orphans traumatized by seeing parents die a slow, painful death.

3. Are the lives of the victims effected? In what ways?

Yes, they are effected. In the following ways:

  • Psychological torture through the remembrance of experiences underwent.
  • Bleeding too much as a result of the cut which may lead to death.
  • Complications during the period of giving birth.
  • Formation of Keloids.
  • Infertility as a result of damages in the fallopian tubes.
  • Pain during sexual intercourse.
  • Reduces sexual desires of a woman.
  • Many get diseases such as Herpes.
  • Leads to early marriage of the young girls as they now feel mature hence spoiling their lives.

4. What are three (or more) obstacles and solutions to stopping FGM?

  • Educate the politicians and others of the effects of FGM both health care and future generations.
  • Education and training would make customs and beliefs die away from the minds of the old generation.
  • Education and exchange of programs with other groups. (networking)
  • Empowering our women in terms of alternative income generating activities within our communities.
  • Asking NGO's and other well wishers to help in organizing workshops, income generating activities, livelihood skill training our girls. They will be able to earn a better living in exchange of girls other wealth.
  • We give our girls an alternative way of training them so as to fit in our community better then the ones who went through FGM. Also, we ask our teachers to fight the vice and protect the girls from the ones who will try to ask for FGM.
  • Politicians and local leaders are an obstacles in stopping FGM because they want the votes and stopping it means no votes.
  • Customs and beliefs within certain communities are an obstacles toward FGM.
  • Being illiterate and lack of exposure to today issues is an obstacle.
  • Some church (denominations) advocate for FGM.
  • It's an income generating activity for circumcisors so it is hard to leave.
  • Stigma or pressure from the groups who have gone under FGM.
  • Source of income to the family once one has been gone through FGM she can get married and pay more dowry.

5. Can an individual help end the brutality? How?

  • Yes. By being self-disciplined, focused with a passionate vision in achieving set goals.
  • Pushing for the enactment of Legislation to guide against FGM through local leaders, MP's to enable enforcement and punishment.
  • Reporting cases and follow-up to forced FGM.
  • Conducting guidance and counseling to the nursery and primary school pupils on dangers.
  • Conducting community awareness campaigns in churches, funerals, weddings, fundraising bazaars, and other activities which bring people together (mobilization).
  • Provision of resources to 'would be' outcasts in cases of rejection (collaboration and networking.)
  • Focusing attention to circumcisors and creation of alternative income generating sources and other needs which lead to their being accomplices in the act.
  • Teaching and preaching about Bible Scriptures on FGM and continued mediation for divine interventions.

6. Are family relations impacted? In what ways?

  • Awareness level increased.
  • Retrogressive cultural practices.
  • Reduction of early marriages.
  • Rate of transition and completion of girl child increased.
  • Decrease of prevalence of HIV/AIDS.
  • Reduce rate of infertility in society.
  • Recognition of women's rights and children's.

7. What type of programs (one on one, groups, alternative rituals, etc.) will be most effective in creating awareness?

  • Article writing in journals and magazines.
  • Organizing workshops/seminars and sensitize the people.
  • Funeral ceremonies.
  • Learning institutions.
  • In the churches.
  • Accessing most affect areas to the interior.
  • Mass media: through radio, television, videos etc.
  • Family discussion be open to children.

Alternative rituals:

  • Preaching to them.
  • Alternative means of generating income.
  • Initiating Health Education that is for our own health.
  • Be role models-come forward and tell the experiences and the success stories.
  • Men involvement. Be ready to marry uncircumcised ladies.

8. Is FGM an issue for church involvement?

Yes.

  • A Pastor from Pentecostal Church from Mt. Elgon do approach the issue by holding meetings in the month of April and August where Bible Truth is taught about FGM and so far have ten girls who stood and say no to the 'cut'.
  • The Pastor reported that they are planning to hold a prayer for fasting on December towards the same issue this year.
  • A brother from Kisumu responded as yes that they are connected with organizations that use Health Education or Reproductive Health against HIV/AIDS.
  • Church support the orphans of the basic needs especially in school fees.
  • Passing constructive information against FGM - advocacy.
  • Also provide protection to the victims.
  • We do request some NGO's to come in and give support for the needs of those girls affected in Kisii, Maasai, Saleast Communities.
  • Financial supports basic needs.
  • Financial support for seminars.
  • Churches advice to organize for retreats during the December holidays to keep them safe from being circumcised.
  • The F.A.C.I.L. already have a Rescue Center for Maasai girls who refuse to be circumcised. Already we have more than 40 girls in the center.
  • Receiving training, schooling furthering 28 primers and 8 secondary education.
  • Encourage in the Word of God.
  • The SDA Church at Kisii is aiming at holding seminars for those girls who are saying no to the cut and teach the Alternative Rite of Passage. They also reach schools to educate and campaign against FGM.
  • They also issue a certificate as proof that those who have undergone the seminars are qualified. Adventist Development Relief Agency = ADRA.

9. Do Biblical passages offer us an guidance and insights about FGM?

The answer is YES!

  • John 10:10 Shows that we have been robed in His fullness. Assurance for who we are in God.
  • John 8:33 We shall know the truth and it will set us free.
  • Galatians 3:1 About the followers-we should not be foolish.
  • Titus 1:15 Speaks about people denying God and doing things on their own ways.
  • James 1:17 Every good gift comes from the he Word. Every organ on the body is a gift God designed.
  • Hebrews 9:19-25 When people circumcise they think they are doing a sacrifice. Jesus was the sacrifice.
  • Romans 12:1 We should render our bodies a living sacrifice before God and we should not be conformed to this world but transformed by the renewing of minds.
  • 1 Corinthians 7:19 Circumcision is nothing. The keeping of God's commandment is important.
  • 1 Peter 4:1 For as much as Christ has suffered for us.
  • 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 God's law on our bodies.
  • Colossians 2:3 Philosophies and traditions of men.
  • 1 Corinthians 7:8 Sexual passion.
  • Luke 1:34 Compassion about virginity.
  • Genesis 17 Circumcision was meant for men.

10. How would you explain FGM to God?

  • The fact that God gave to Abram is that it was only men to be circumcised and we get that from Geneses 17.
  • There is no where in the Bible that FGM is talked about so we believe that God did not advocate for this.
  • FGM is against God's creation since God did not talk about it it is against God's temple.
  • FGM is a very evil act that is brought by the forces of Satan to destroys the well being of God's people.
  • We get in the Bible that the circumcision is not a park of the Laws of God but keeping the command of God is the only way that is needed 1 Corinthians 7-17.
  • Paul says in the Bible that anything I do is not what I have to do for God but keeping the laws of God is what I need to as a creation.
  • The Bible in Galatians 5: 6-7 Paul says that circumcision nor un-circumcision avails anything but first working through love is very important.
  • The Bible is not allowing a Christian to go in this tradition since we have been performed of God we are new creations to follow God's will.
  • The people in time now honor there deeds instead of honoring God this found in Matthew 15: 3-9.
  • The Bible in II Timothy 3-16 explains very well what someone is supposed to do for God's will.