Unlucky number seven saves girls in Migori from the cut

Girls recite a poem against FGM during graduation of an Alternative Rite of Passage last year in Kuria West .Picture:Manuel Odeny
Girls recite a poem against FGM during graduation of an Alternative Rite of Passage last year in Kuria West .Picture:Manuel Odeny

Due to cultural belief that number seven brings bad omen, the Kuria community in Migori County and parts of neighbouring Tanzania will this year not perform circumcision.

The community across its four clans of Abairege, Abanyabasi, Abagumbe and Abakira will skip the rite of passage exercise in 2017 completely for both boys and girls.

Activists say the lull expected this year will be a ticking time bomb as next year the number of girls to face the cut will double, hence bring double problems in curbing the vice.

“Despite the community skipping female genital mutilation this year, activists will continue with their anti-FGM programmes and educating the public against the vice,” said Mathews Owili, Programme Officer at World Vision, Kuria region.

Speaking during the 2017 celebration of the Day of the African Child organized at Kehancha area in Kuria East, the activists said without the pressure of controlling the cut it will be easier to educate the public especially during last three months of the year.

“According to the Kuria culture, the number seven is considered to be a major cause for bad luck and there are fears that if the exercise is done then there could be death or the age set will be facing bad luck throughout their lives,” explained Owili.

Benter Ombwayo, Director of Bibi Amka Foundation which also works with the Kuria and Maasai communities in Migori and Narok counties said they will not scale down their activities for Kuria community this year.

“We will increase our meetings with change agents especially children in the health clubs which we have established in several primary schools. This is the chance to boost it through advocating for zero-tolerance to FGM,” Ombwayo said.

She said the organization has helped save several girls from genital mutilation and will use the one year lull to help them progress peacefully with their education.

“We will not waste our energy in saving girls running away from the cut. We will instead divert our energies and resources to scaling up of activities whose effect will be felt next year,” she said.

Last year Mary Kwamboka, a Programme Officer with ADRA-Kenya through a UNICEF funded initiative helped over 200 girls who refused to undergo the cut to have alternative rite of passage.

A father adjusts his daughter's gift during Alternative Rite of Passage graduation.Picture:Manuel Odeny

A father adjusts his daughter’s gift during Alternative Rite of Passage graduation.Picture:Manuel Odeny

During the passage, the girls stayed in a church managed boarding establishment used to shelter girls running away from FGM and underwent training on life skills, reproductive health education and negative effects of the cut.

“On the last day, we had a march out parade akin to university graduation where parents were the guests of honours and gave girls presents equivalent to those given to circumcised girls to avoid their being tempted to undergo the cut,” Kwamboka explained.

A similar exercise may be done again for this year as change agents, mostly pastors and elites are not tied up on culture and will have time to attend the exercise.

“This will offer us a great opportunity to show the community that beliefs tied to circumcising girls are myths and the best way to break them is by having alternative rites of passage,” she said.

Back to the celebration, Dima Omar, Nyatike Sub-County Commissioner called on teachers and parents to work together in ensuring all school going children complete their education without impediments.

Omar faulted the poor parent-teacher relationship for the continued reported cases of early school drop outs due child labour in gold mines and early pregnancies.

Omar said in Migori County, child labour in gold mines, fish landing beaches as well as tobacco and sugarcane farms is major impediment to children’s rights.

He said Female Genital Mutilation, a menace which has since been outlawed, is major cause of sexual assault, early pregnancies and cattle rustling cases in Kuria region.

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