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Over 300 Samburu girls shun FGM, embrace education

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Samburu girls are snubbing the most widely-condemned ritual practice in the world today, female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C) and gradually replacing it with education.

More than 300 girls from 8 primary schools in Matakwani village in Wamba division, Samburu County all below the age of 15 successfully graduated from Alternative Right of Passage (ARP) course Wednesday – marking a huge milestone in the fight against FGM and for the community that has lagged behind for years owing to the backward cultural ritual.

The joint efforts by AMREF Health Africa, Samburu County Government and Anti-FGM Board have since resulted in over 6,000 girls from different communities abandoning the physically-harmful practice in Kenya and have intensified local campaigns to abolish the vice.

The ARP graduation ceremony is marked as a way of publicly denouncing FGM and symbolizes a transition to womanhood without passing through the cruel rite of passage that is still widespread in the region and satellite counties.

Linah Jebii Kilimo, the Chairperson of Anti-FGM Board has however called on more support to tame the vice which continues to deny most girls basic right to schooling.

“Political leaders are beginning to shun this practice and that’s a step forward, we however need to empower the girls through education while at the same time creating awareness on the vice, if we are to succeed in this fight,” she said.

The exercise in Samburu was the fruit of the joint efforts of Amref Health Africa, the Samburu County government, the Anti-FGM board.

The Netherlands government and American governments also offered their support. Netherlands and America were represented by their ambassadors, Franks Makken and Robert Godec (respectively), who attended the event.

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The girls who went through the ARP will not only avoid the cut, but also early marriages and school drop outs, advancing education for the girl child in the area. Frans Makken, the Dutch Ambassador to Kenya, said that the efforts to end FGM have to be sustained after the alternative rite of passage ceremony.

“After the ceremony we have to say courageous and firm. There will still be pressures. Please don’t cut the future away, don’t cut the education away,” he stressed.

Recent data by Kenya Demographic Health Survey (KDHS) shows that out of 100 girls who have undergone the cut, a whopping 59 lack basic education.

Amref Health Africa pioneered the alternative rite of passage programme in 2009 and has since saved 10,850 girls from FGM in Samburu and Kajiado Counties.

Plans are also at advanced stage by Samburu County to develop an integrated policy framework to address gender matters aimed at empowering girl-child education.

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