Hassan Mulata is the Chair of the National Youth Council in Marsabit County as well as the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Initiatives for Progressive Change, which was established to trigger social change through inspiring change and transforming lives.
As an End FGM Ambassador, Hassan is looking forward to initiating community dialogue to change the narrative regarding FGM practice.
Tell us about yourself
I am the founder and CEO for Initiatives for Progressive Change (IfPC), a community based organisation in Marsabit, Kenya with a focus on youth and women empowerment, community peace building and rural development. I am also Marsabit County Chair for the National Youth Council which was established through an act of parliament to be the official voice of the youth in Kenya. As a county chair, I speak for and represent the youth in the county. I’m a firm believer in the respect for women’s rights, and recognition of the youth as the central stakeholders in development.
How did you get involved in the movement to end FGM?
Here’s my story. On a field visit in the outskirts of Marsabit county, in a place called Southhorr, I met a young girl of about sixteen years old who was married to a much older man after dropping out of school in Standard Four. Going by the conversation we had, I recognised that the young girl was very serious and brilliant. I had to ask why she had got married instead of going to school and her answer was simple - that at the age of 13 or thereabout, she was considered old enough to transit into womanhood. This meant she was subjected to FGM and then married off. This really disturbed me and I kept thinking of what she would have become if she hadn’t been subjected to FGM, and if she’d been given the opportunity to continue her education instead - maybe she would have become a lawyer, doctor, teacher or an engineer?
Back home, we also practice FGM and, actually, every adult female in my family has undergone FGM. So I started reflecting about the negative effects of FGM on my cousins, nephews, sisters and all the girls I knew. I thought about the number of dreams being shattered, the potential of the little girls going unrealised and the vicious cycle of underdevelopment being sustained through the practice of FGM.
This reflection made me realise my moral obligation to protect the rights and future of the innocent girls in my family and communities, and to do so I had to stand up and start working towards ending FGM.
What are your strengths?
I believe I have great strength in advocacy and lobbying, which contributes towards getting things done. Being the Chair of the National Youth Council (Marsabit County) and as well as founder of a local organisation, I am able to influence youth leaders, community elders (in particular Morans), local FM radio stations, members of the county assembly, and imams.
What would you say is your most significant contribution to ending FGM?
One of the most significant is spearheading the launch of Anti-FGM Youth Network (Marsabit County chapter) on International Youth Day 2016 - where we were able to reach hundreds of youth with our end FGM message across the county.
I also spearheaded community dialogue in Sagante-Jaldesa ward in March and April 2017, involving over 100 youth and women to discuss the effects of FGM, and why this practice must end. We hoped to trigger community conversation and break the silence of FGM. At the end of the dialogue the women developed an action plan on when and where to reach their peers with messages about ending FGM in their respective villages. I believe that as a result of this work over 3000 people were reached directly.
What are some of the challenges faced while working towards ending FGM?
Marsabit is a vast and sparsely populated county, with rough and tough terrain, making it difficult to reach every part of the county with end FGM messages. There are financial implications for almost every activity – and logistical and financial challenges make it difficult for us to participate in forums at a short notice, as well as to hold activities as frequently as one would wish.
The practicing communities firmly believe that FGM is their culture, and end FGM messages are, at times, not taken with a smile: they argue that the messages are a foreign culture. However, we overcome this first by talking about the negative effects of FGM, how it’s a violation of many girls’ rights, and then justify why it must be stopped.
With almost 98% of the girls and women in Marsabit being survivors of FGM, talking about FGM can be a very emotive subject. If you dwell on its nitty-gritty aspects, this can prick emotions of the survivors. Therefore, some skills on counselling, and handling such a situation, are a really important part of my job.