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"We are at the dawn of the African Women's Decade ... We need to empower African women who produce food, raise children and drive the economy here. When those women take their rightful place at the negotiating table, in the parliament and in leadership positions across society, we can unleash Africa's enormous potential"

Ban Ki-moon , UN Secretary-General

Source: Daily Nation

She explains that as a child from a pastoralist community, circumcision was a compulsory rite.

“It was not a matter of consultation, it was even a taboo to talk about i. It was a very strong belief,” she says.

Everyone believed it was a religious obligation to undergo the rite, and the conviction was that a woman who was not circumcised was unclean and not fit for marriage.

It was also believed that God could not hear prayers of an uncut woman. But the MP does not blame her mother for the ordeal. She understands too well that like many other women in her community, she was brought up to believe it was a religious rite.

Going through the process meant cleansing daughters for marriage. “No one wanted their daughter to be a ‘haram’ or unfit for marriage,” she explains.

A part from the belief that circumcising the girl made her clean, it was also believed that the process protected her virginity.

“Once taken to her husband, he would know that she had been properly taken care of,” the MP explains. The third reason for the cut is that the community was scared of girls who were not circumcised, easily branding them prostitutes.

This is because it was believed not going through the cut left a woman sensitive sexually hence could easily turn to prostitution.

In one village

Her campaign started when, while working on a Unicef Programme in Garissa where she was seconded by the Ministry of Education, she came across a circumcision rite in one of the villages she was visiting.

She immediately went dizzy after memories of her childhood experience flashed back. She sat down in silence but just a few minutes later, she and her colleagues heard a cry from the hut where the rite was being conducted.

The girl had fainted from the loss of blood but she passed away on the way to hospital. That incident marked the beginning of her activism against female circumcision. It was not easy owing to opposition from especially the religious leaders. But she was not going to give up.

“I knew deeply that was not my religion,” she says.

With this conviction, she approached some sheikhs and asked them to go through the Koran to find out whether indeed the Muslim religion required that women go through it.

It was with much relief that she came to learn from the sheikhs that it was nowhere in the holy books of Islam.

“I immediately mobilised meetings with the community and would later receive support from the international community,” she says.

She founded Womankind Kenya to spearhead the campaigns. She also started a centre for orphaned girls and those vulnerable to female circumcision, which also offered education.

The centre currently has 120 uncircumcised girls, having grown from an initial number of 18. It has girls aged between six and 23.

“People talk of diseases that come naturally and cause complications and kill, but this one is a bigger disease by our own making and people just don’t talk about it,” the MP says, noting that the practice goes on in several other communities in Kenya, secretly.

She is grateful to her colleagues for passing the Bill that will boost the war on female circumcision.



 

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