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Born Perfect Caravan – Kenya

Seeing the horrible effects of FGM on girls usually fills me with rage

BY KAMAU MAICHUHIE

My name is Kamau Maichuhie, a journalist currently working for the Nation Media Group (NMG) here in Kenya.

NMG the largest media organisation in East and Central Africa. Here at NMG, I write for the Daily Nation Newspaper, the largest paper in Kenya.

 Kamau Maichuhie, Kenyan Journalist

I hold a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communication from Daystar University and a Diploma in Journalism.I joined the Daily Nation’s Gender desk in 2019 when it was set up as a senior reporter.

At the Gender desk, we report on all gender related issues with a strong emphasis on harmful practises like female genital mutilation (FGM), child marriage, wife inheritance, rape, defilement among others.

Prior to joining the Daily Nation, I worked for the Standard Newspaper, the second largest newspaper here in Kenya as a reporter for six years from 2013 to 2019.

While there, I also covered extensively on matters touching on harmful practises like rape, defilement and gender based violence (GBV), dis-inheritance among women, among others.

Through my work, I have been a strong proponent of gender equality and women empowerment. This is a thing that I have a soft spot for.

Seeing positive impacts like policy changes by the government and other relevant stakeholders as a result of some of the stories we do have been very fulfilling.

My goal is to be a notable change maker in matters pertaining to gender equality in my country and beyond.

Writing stories touching on FGM have been part and parcel of my work in the last five year that I have been a gender reporter.

I have traversed Kenya in many of the 22 FGM hotspot counties as I seek to document stories touching on this outdated and barbaric harmful cultural practice.

I have interviewed FGM survivors, reformed cutters, elders, activists, religious leaders’ safe shelter operators, government officials, women and opinion leaders as I put together these stories.

I still vividly remember a story I did last year as if it was yesterday. In May last year, I embarked on a journey from the newsroom in Nairobi to Lomut, a remote village in West Pokot County situated in the Rift-Valley region some 500 kilometers away.

I was documenting stories on FGM survivors from different parts of the country and my sources tipped me that there was a young FGM survivor with a compelling story worth telling.

Her story was horrifying. At 17, she had endured it all. After being subjected to the cut while aged 10 and later immediately being married off, this girl who has never stepped into a classroom has been through hell.

This girl lost two babies at birth due to complications associated with FGM and later developed fistula, this girl’s story was nothing but scary.

One of the most severe effects of FGM is health complication. For example, this girl developed obstetric fistula after delivery in addition to losing her two babies.

This is a condition that occurs when a mother has prolonged, obstructed labour but doesn’t get emergency medical care.

With the condition, she could not hold her urine. It took the intervention of well-wishers to have her treated and restore her dignity.

This harmful practice is a contributor to the high morbidity and mortality rates among females.

Many die during the cut due to excessive bleeding. A lot others also lose their babies during birth due complications like prolonged labour pain among others.

The girl’s story was one of the saddest and most touching stories I have covered in my journalism career that spans more than a decade.

The story of this girl later turned out to be an award winning story. It was such a humbling experience for me.I actually dedicated the award to her and other girls and women whose stories I tell through the pen. (Link to the story below)

https://nation.africa/kenya/news/gender/at-17-she-s-been-married-lost-two-babies-and-endured-fistula-thanks-to-fgm-4428460

About seven months earlier in October 2022, I had travelled to Maralal in Samburu County which is situated in Northern Kenya about 370 kilometers from Nairobi.

Here, I met and interviewed two young girls who were being housed in a safe shelter run by Catholic nuns.

The story of one girl touched my heart and really got me angry. After being forcefully cut while aged nine, this girl was immediately forcefully married off to a 72 year old man.

What was more annoying was that she was married off even before she had healed. Her story was shocking. It made me boil with rage. I bayed for the blood of this old and shameless man.

I imagined the girl as being my daughter and how I would have felt if anyone dared do such a thing to her.

I could not comprehend how culture would be this ruthless to girls and women in general to the extent of subjecting them to such unimaginable pain.

The girl was however lucky as she together with several others who were in a similar predicament were rescued and given a chance to get an education.(the story link below).

Many girls in the communties that practice FGM are never lucky to have education as after being cut they are normally immedielty marrief off.They become housewives and education is therefore relegated to the back burner.

https://nationafrica.webpkgcache.com/doc//s/nation.africa/kenya/news/gender/samburu-centre-a-beacon-of-hope-for-fgm-child-marriage-survivors–4021966

In the course of my work, I have endured a myriad of challenges. I remember one time IN 2022 when we visited Kabasiran village in Elegeyo-Marakwet to meet a male champion fighting FGM in the area.

The area is dangerous as it’s prone to banditry. Infact, it is normally referred to as ‘the Valley of Death’ due to the number of people who have been killed there by bandits.

So, on this particular day, we had to be evacuated from the village to evade the wrath of the ruthless and unforgiving bandits. We were lucky to get out of there alive.

I however managed to get the story of the young man who is standing up for the girls in Kerio Valley.
(see the story link below)

https://nation.africa/kenya/news/gender/meet-the-young-man-standing-up-for-girls-in-kerio-valley-4271214

And even though Kenya boasts of a law that prohibits FGM, the vice still remains high with 22 out of 47 counties being identified as hotspot counties.

Here in Kenya, UNICEF says around 4 million, or one in five, women and girls have been subjected to FGM.According to the Kenya Demographic Health Survey 2022 released last year, the FGN national prevalence stands at 15 percent.

This was however a notable decline from 12 percent in a similar survey conducted in 2014.Of the 22 counties practicing FGM, Garissa County was listed as having the highest prevalence at 83 per cent.The Somali community leads at 98 per cent, followed by the Samburu at 94 per cent.

Faced with these grim statistics, it is therefore exciting to learn about the #FrontlineEndingFGM Born Perfect FGM Caravan which expected to tour the entire African continent to amplify the fight against FGM.

The caravan is aimed to travel over 15,000 km from west to east Africa over the course of two years, escorted by local frontline organisations, authorities, and media.

In my view, the caravan is an idea whose time has come.It is in fact long overdue, It will be paramount to fight outdated cultural practices that have been with us for ages.

Through the caravan that will travel town by town, village by village, it is no doubt that it will reach a lot of people and in particular those who matter if the way it has been planned is anything to go by.

Showing them the videos that portrays the horrible and negative effects that FGM has on girls and women will be paramount to convince these communities to dump this retrogressive practice.

The presence of influencers among them musicians, comedians, religious leaders and doctors will go a long way to capture the attention of the locals and help hammer through the intended message.

Such people are held in high esteem by their respective communities and therefore locals will defiantly take their advice about FGM seriously.

The caravan will no doubt show the locals how serious the FGM issue is and why it’s important to shun the vice.

To have maximum impact, it is my humble view that the best time for the caravan would be in the months of April, August and November/December when the schools are normally closed here in Kenya.

This is when massive cutting of girls is normally witnessed in the 22 FGM hotspot counties in Kenya. November/December is usually a long holiday of about two months. That would therefore be a good time for the caravan.

My email:kmaichuhie@gmail.com