In a highly cultured Maeta village in Kuria East, Migori County, female circumcision and related matters have been marked taboo by both cultural elders and the younger generation here. But radio shows about the outlawed practice have given the old and young a free platform where they express their views about FGM and its effects on the girls’ lives and marriages.
It is Thursday morning and residents of Maeta village are streaming into the area chief’s camp for their weekly meeting. Men, women and youth arrive at the venue a few minutes to midday. Not even the heavy rains in the area would disrupt their plan to meet and discuss issues affecting the girl child in the village and the larger Kuria community in Migori County.
Under a tree, the meeting starts with a traditional song from the leader of the Maeta Youth Network Against FGM. The group, comprising of more than 40 members, regularly convenes at the chief’s camp to listen to radio programmes on FGM issues. Afterwards, members start discussions based on the radio programme.
According to the Kenya Demographic Health Survey 2014, 75 percent of women who have undergone FGM reside in Northeastern, Rift Valley and Nyanza regions. Gesaka Chacha is a village elder who has since changed tune on FGM. He explains that traditionally, the Kuria community perceived FGM as not only a major milestone in the lives of their girls but also gave a sense of social status to the parents of the circumcised girl. “That is why the practice so rampant here,” says Mzee Gesaka.
Gesaka, 74, is among the community members gathered to listen to the FGM awareness radio programmes produced by the Association of Media Women in Kenya with support from The Girl Generation. Five minutes into the programme, the audience pauses to have a debate on the issues discussed in the recorded programme.
A heated debate ensues for about 10 minutes before the group moderator turns on the radio to continue with the programme. Mary Wasike, a member of the group opines: “I have learnt many things from these radio sessions. For example, I have seen even here in the village, when girls get circumcised, their attitude towards pre-marital sex changes. After the cut, many of them believe they have become adults thus engage in careless sex. The result is teenage pregnancies and school dropouts,” says Wasike.
The radio programmes stir a debate on FGM and bedroom matters, with young people and the elderly discussing the issues fearlessly. The debates have changed the stance of many residents regarding the female cut.
According to Nyaganga Peter, a parent, FGM puts in the girls’ minds that they are now women and can have sex just like their mothers and aunties. “After listening to the radio shows, I am now a more transformed person. I now want the best for my daughters because I also want them to enjoy their marriage.
In the heated discussion, women do not shy away either. Elizabeth Bokhe points out some dangers of FGM, especially when it comes to child birth. “To some of us, it is a big deal giving birth once you have the cut. Many women tear in the process, leaving them with lifetime scars,” says Bokhe.