Compassion CBO, Kenya
I witnessed female genital mutilation or cutting when I was a child and my sisters were cut. I was horrified by the amount that they bled and how they suffered and changed after this experience. When I went to primary school I realised that some of the girls there had not had to go through this terrible thing and even then, I felt as if it was the wrong thing to do to my sisters. I qualified as a teacher and some of my pupils, some as young as 4 and 6, were being cut and I noticed the real change in their happiness and personalities. They found it hard to concentrate on their studies, became withdrawn and traumatised and I found myself really upset and disturbed by it and the memories of my sister.
In 2010 I decided to combine my teaching skills with my desire to bring about the end of child poverty and FGM/C and I set up Compassion CBO. I felt as a man and as a teacher whose sisters had to endure such violence that I had to try and do something. I started immediately talking to anyone that would listen about the dangers of FGM/C.
Compassion CBO is a grassroots, not-for-profit, Community Based Organisation (CBO) in Kenya. We work to eradicate poverty and bring about real social change through education and sustainable development in the Githogoro and surrounding areas of Nairobi. Our projects include Children’s Education, Skills Training and Economic Empowerment, Education, HIV/AIDS Education and support and our anti- FGM/C Advocacy. We move from one very rural village to another talking to village elders, community leaders and parents about the health and life-damaging consequences of cutting. At the same time we talk and inform about the sexual reproductive Health and Rights for women and the rights of women and girls to live in a world that is free from gender based violence. We also talk about women’s right for equality and for sexual pleasure and ownership over thier own bodies.
We also encourage an Alternative Rite of Passage in which a ribbon would be cut to signify the passage from childhood to womanhood with a certificate given out by us when the girl has been through this ritual.
We need greater funding to run our office, but I would also like to take our teaching, programmes and workshops further afield into other areas in rural hard to reach communities and that is an expensive thing to do. I would want to make sure that we were particularly active during the school holidays which is when most cutting of girls takes place.
I would also like a rolling out of a comprehensive sexual education in Secondary schools in Kenya so that girls could feel agency for their own bodies and sexuality and that boys would have more understanding of the damage that is being done to the women and girls around them. I would like more funding looking into the way that FGMC is an economic decision as the girls in the family are seen as cash-cows. There is such a complicated network of people around the family so that all the relatives - the aunts, cousins, in-laws need to be taught about the devastating damage of FGMC to a girl’s body and mind and future and that her value is not just about her marriageability.