To mark the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) on 6 February, Paula Plaza reflects on a new model for ending the practice in Kenya.
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is illegal in Kenya – but 27 per cent of women and girls aged 15 to 49 are cut, and living with the consequences of FGM. Among Maasai women, the incidence rate is much higher – as high as 73 per cent.
A number of men have been trained in the SASA! approach alongside female advocates and are now themselves facilitating the community dialogues.
A wide range of people including in the community are engaged with SASA! including women, men, religious and traditional leaders, the media, the police and healthcare providers, helping them to use their influence to tackle widespread, accepted violence and to advocate for policies that protect women’s rights.
Lucy Sekento (19), is a teacher in Sitoka, a Maasai village in Narok County, Kenya. Lucy went through FGM when she was 16. The Transmara Rural Development Programme (TRDP) helps the community to access healthcare. Christian Aid
The programme also works with local health facilities and paralegals to establish systems for appropriately identifying, documenting, treating and referring victims of sexual violence.
Now the SASA! model is proving to be effective in helping to change attitudes and negative social norms, and the programme is having a positive effect on women’s health and wellbeing.
SASA! is having an impact with concrete steps being taken by the Maasai Council of Elders, who are openly committing to oppose harmful traditional practices, such as FGM, early and forced marriages and wife battering.
When asked if her daughter will be cut, Lucy says: “When Shelly is grown up, I think everybody will change their minds and everyone will say no to that. She will have a bright future”. Christian Aid
The approach has seen a 50 per cent rise in the number of gender based violence cases being reported by communities, who are increasingly aware of their rights and the harmful effects of violence.
Communities are encouraged to identify their own responses to gender-based violence and to work with others to establish a survivor protection plan for victims of violence. The SASA! model is proving so successful that it is being replicated in other areas of Kenya and Malawi.
To help end the practise, the NGO, Christian Aid and its local partners, the Coalition on Violence Against Women (COVAW) and Centre for Rights Education and Awareness for Women (CREAW) are using SASA! — an innovative internationally recognised model of community mobilisation developed by activists in Uganda — to tackle violence against women and its associated health impacts.
Paula Plaza is Programme Communications Advisor at Christian Aid.