Community and religious leaders reach out to end FGM in Nairobi

FGM is still happening even in the heart of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. Organisations working to end FGM in the city have realised the value of interacting with community and religious leaders. By equipping these leaders with the necessary tools, they are able to effectively communicate the end FGM message directly to their community members.

It is quite hard to believe that female genital mutilation (FGM) still happens within the vicinity of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, even after the act was outlawed with the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act 2011. The truth of the matter is, in one of Nairobi’s bustling business district – Eastleigh, and an informal settlement – Korogocho, FGM is happening.

According to the 2014 Kenya Demographics Health Survey, urban women in Kenya are more likely to be cut at the youngest age range of five to nine years. Up to 94% of women in the Somali community in Nairobi have undergone the cut.

However, the Kenya Women and Children’s Wellness Center (KWCWC) is working with community and religious leaders in this community. KWCWC has been holding dialogue meetings with religious leaders to share vital information about FGM including; different types of the practice, reasons why communities engage in it, consequences, what the law of Kenya says and ways of stopping it. The first meeting was held in May 2017, and as a result of the discussions, some religious leaders have agreed to influence their communities to stay away from FGM.

During the second forum in August, community religious leaders shared their experiences and the different strategies they used to share the end FGM message. One community leader, Mohammed Ali shared his experience saying,

"In July, I learnt about a girl who was about to go through the cut. I went out to her home and had a discussion about FGM with the parents and also reached out to the village elders. Eventually, the exercise was called off and the girl is now continuing with her primary education. The family also promised to educate her until she is of age to get married. Ordinarily, they would have married her off after undergoing the cut. It is the initial dialogue held in May that gave me the knowledge and confidence to approach this matter."

At the end of the forum, the religious leaders took part in a door-to-door campaign in Korogocho and Eastleigh. They also committed to reaching out to the most prominent religious leaders to share with them the consequences of FGM.

KWCWC’s approach of giving religious leaders a platform to discuss FGM related issues and to come up with their own strategies of ending the practice has been effective in terms of getting the message out to the communities. The opportunity to come up with their own strategies motivated these leaders to go out there and reach out to the community because they felt part of the process.  

At a national level, KWCWC has also been convening anti-FGM board meetings with stakeholders from across the country. One such meeting was held in March 2017 with the aim of bringing together different actors to deliberate on the magnitude of the FGM practice in different counties, share best practices and lessons learned, and strategies employed to eradicate FGM in different parts of the country. The stakeholder meetings encouraged coordinated discussions on anti-FGM programming to reduce duplication of resources. The two meetings held in 2017 led to the establishment of a 15-member technical group to represent other actors in the planned monthly meetings.

When community leaders, teachers, family members and grassroots organisations are united, they are able to effectively challenge FGM and advocate for change.

The realisation that FGM is happening in Nairobi is a wake-up call to all organisations working to improve the welfare of children to be more vigilant and speak out against FGM – but by supporting and inspiring leaders to take up their own local approaches to raising discussion and debate – this practice can be challenged. Activating local grassroots action to end FGM is a high priority for The Girl Generation, as the social change required for FGM to end in a generation needs to take place at the community level. When community leaders, teachers, family members and grassroots organisations are united, they are able to effectively challenge FGM and advocate for change.

The Girl Generation’s End FGM Grassroots Fund supports local grassroots organisations in some of the countries most affected by FGM. We believe that their local connections, insight and influence mean they are best placed to spark the social changes required for FGM to end. Find out more about what the fund has been able to achieve.