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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Enditnow: In Kenya, Girls Say No to FGM

December 9, 2009 By Nadia McGill In Kenya, where Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) remains a serious problem, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is implementing a project that is changing the attitudes and behavior towards the procedure in practicing communities within the country's western and northeastern regions. ADRA's Anti-FGM project addresses the dangerous effects that FGM, also called Female Genital Cutting (FGC), has on young women and girls in communities where the procedure is currently practiced. As a form of gender-based violence, FGM is one of the most critical issues addressed by end it now, an ongoing campaign co-sponsored by ADRA and the Women's Ministries Department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The enditnow campaign works to end violence against women and girls around the world. FGM involves the removal of all or part of a girl's, or woman's external genitalia for any of a number of reasons, varying from a desire to control a perceived risk of marital infidelity, as a rite of passage into womanhood, or to meet certain religious or social expectations. "The effects of FGM on the health of a young girl, whether we are speaking of her physical health, her sexual health, her reproductive, or her psychological health are serious and long lasting," said Martha Momanyi, programs director for ADRA Kenya. "To effectively eliminate this practice, we must enlist not only the child herself, but also gain the support of her family, and her community as a whole." To achieve this, ADRA's Anti-FGM project raises awareness of the impact of FGM on young girls in communities where the practice is prevalent, educating key stakeholders on the dangerous effects of FGM through workshops, meetings, and public campaigns, working with local radio programs and community theater groups to increase coverage of on-going anti-FGM campaigns, and partnering with other organizations to effectively disseminate the message throughout the targeted regions. ADRA also uses school-based peer education activities, church-based training programs, and advocacy initiatives to change attitudes and behavior in regards to the procedure. In addition, ADRA organizes a special workshop every year that targets young girls who are most vulnerable to the practice, providing them with life skills training, and educating them on various issues, such as their reproductive health, self-esteem, and human rights, to help them withstand cultural pressures to undergo the procedure. The Anti-FGM project is a component of ADRA Kenya's larger Girl Child/Women Empowerment Programme, which has been active in Western Kenya since 2003. "ADRA's work has also contributed to the formulation of new policies regarding FGM," added Momanyi. "This is a big step in completely eliminating this practice." L'karmissionen, a Swedish non-profit organization, Bread for the World in Germany, ADRA International and the United Nations Children's Fund, are providing financial assistance for the project, which is scheduled to conclude at the end of December 2009. Other partners include the government of Kenya, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in East Africa, the YWCA, ActionAid, as well as several local churches and faith-based organizations. According to the United Nations Population Fund, approximately 3 million girls are at risk of undergoing FGM every year, which is primarily conducted on girls under the age of 15. Between 100 and 140 million girls and women are estimated to have undergone the procedure, which is practiced in more than 28 countries around the world, primarily in Africa and Western Asia. Other forms of gender-based violence include domestic abuse, sex trafficking, and child marriages.