Thursday, December 17, 2009
December 16, 2009 By David Kiarie Kenya Women from the Meru community in Eastern Kenya have a reason to rejoice after the community's council of elders, Njurincheke, declared that female genital cut, a deep rooted tradition in the community, will no longer be practiced. The elders led by their secretary general Pharis Rutere sang the council's anthem before reading out the printed anti-fgm declaration at Kinoru stadium in Meru town before Kenya's Gender and Children Affairs minister Esther Murugi. "We declare and reaffirm total abandonment of female genital mutilation in Meru land." the declaration said in part. The declaration had been made in 1956 at the council of elders' shrines but the practice has been ongoing in the community. Anyone who will go against the declaration may be punished by the elders. The move is seen as a big stride by gender experts in the country where fgm is still practiced by more than 80 per cent of the communities. The national chair of Maendeleo ya Wanawake, a women empowerment association, Rukia Subow said it is unfortunate that some nurses working in public health facilities conduct the female genital cut and called on the government to take action. Rukia said the practice is so entrenched that in some communities, women who have not undergone the cut are forcefully cut during their times of giving birth when they are in pain and helpless. Some Kenyans living abroad she said take their daughters back to the country to undergo the cut despite their academic and social standards. The UNICEF Kenya Representative Dr. Olivia Yambi said although the country had made several steps ahead towards fighting fgm, it still has a long way to go with three out of ten women having undergone the cut In Meru community Yambi said, four out of ten women have undergone the cut. The female cut she said was working against achieving the millennium development goals on health since it contributes to increasing chances of child mortality. She described the practice as an injustice to women and hailed the Njurincheke council of elders for banning the retrogressive traditional practice. Dr. Yambi expressed her commitment to support the Kenya government, agencies and non governmental organizations and ensure that the rights of women, girls and children are fulfilled. Gender minister Esther Murugi who received the council's declaration described it as a landmark and called on other communities to follow suit. Murugi said the female cut done under the guise of tradition is now rampant in Central Kenya where "unfortunately it is being conducted by young men," and where 30 per cent of the women she claimed had undergone the cut. She said she would use the elders to campaign against fgm among other communities in the countries. The minister said the elderly women who used to work as female circumcisers would be included in a government's social protection fund where all elderly persons over the age of 65 years would start getting a Ksh. 1,000 about USD 12 per month. She said this would ensure the former female circumcisers are not tempted to go back to the business for lack of money. Some of the reformed female circumcisers attended the function with their tools of trade which were exhibited and confessed abandoning the job. The function was co organized by Maendeleo ya wanawake, UNICEF and other non governmental organizations.