The International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation was marked today in Alale, West Pokot County with a landmark signing of an End Cross Border FGM declaration by the Pokot elders and Government Representatives from Kenya and Uganda.
Chief Administrative Secretary, Hon. Rachel Shebesh who presided over the event welcomed the declaration from both Countries that will see the elimination of FGM and protect the girls and women from the harmful practice.
Hon. Shebesh noted that women and girls have borne the brunt of the harmful consequences of FGM for a long time and said that the time for it’s elimination was long overdue.
She noted that involving the elders is a prerequisite in the fight against FGM given the significant role they play as the gate keepers of the culture in their communities. She urged the elders to utilize their power to influence the community positively.
“The cultural leaders are there to protect our women and girls from the harmful practices such as FGM. Their voice is the most respected in the society so they influence the community to choose a safer rite of passage for girls. As government and in partnership with our development partners and our neighboring Countries we are at hand to accord you all the required support,” said Hon. Shebesh.
She emphasized that the government was not fighting cultural practices but was fighting harmful cultural practices that infringe on the rights and well-being of girls and women.
The Chief Administrative Secretary also warned complacent Chiefs and Assistant Chiefs and told them that they risked arrest if the practice continued in their respective jurisdictions unabated.
“The Chiefs and the Assistant Chiefs with reported cases of FGM in their jurisdictions should come forward to seek for support to end FGM, ” she said.
She challenged practitioners of female circumcision who are carrying out the practice as a source of livelihood to seek alternative means of income through Government Affirmative Funds.
West Pokot County Governor, Hon. John Lonyangapuo urged parents to ensure their children are in school noting that the County Government had given allocation for education which is enough for every child in the County. “To eradicate FGM in West Pokot County we must invest in education being a marginalized region,” said Hon. Lonyangapuo.
The international theme for the day was “No Time for Global Inaction: Unite, Fund end Act to End FGM.”
The day was preceded by unveiling of the West Pokot County Anti-FGM Youth Chapter yesterday. Where Anti-FGM Youth Network drawn from the 22 hot spot counties in Kenya and from within West Pokot County met to share best practice on ways young people can end FGM. The Anti-FGM youth champions will be rolled out in the other Counties to spearhead dialogue and awareness campaigns at the community level. The youth network called for the nomination of a youth under 35 years of age into the Anti-FGM Board Committee to bring in the youth voice in the fight against FGM.
The delegation from the Ugandan Government called for increased allocation in the budget for education for the border counties which are practicing FGM in order to empower the girls through education.
Earlier on, Hon. Shebesh visited Alale Rescue Centre, near Uganda Border where she met with over 90 girls who have been rescued from FGM and early forced marriage who are are undergoing mentoring. She pledged to support the Centre with mattresses and other basic items.
Among those leaders who accompanied the Chief Administrative Secretary are Ministry of ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs, Chief Administrative Secretary, Ms. Maureen Mbaka; Ugandan Government Representatives, Anti-FGM Board Chairperson and CEO Agnes Pareiyo and Bernadette Loloju respectively; the West Pokot County Anti-FGM Multi-Agency Committee and other National and County Government officials.
By Nelly Kosgey