Reflections in a time of Covid An appropriate day for update: International Day of Girl Child
Updated: Oct 12, 2020
The girl child is the most vulnerable member of our human family and therefore most in need of protection. She has the least power to shape her own life and to choose her own path. In many communities around the world she doesn't even have control of her own bodily integrity since according to UNICEF most recent report over 4 million girls are at risk of genital mutilation (FGM) every year and an even greater number, 12 million, will be forced into early "marriage" (ECM) whilst still a child.
Unfortunately the Covid pandemic has set back efforts to end FGM and ECM possibly by decades! In Kenya schools closed very early on in the pandemic meaning that the protection offered by being in school to girls from practising communities was lost and according to local reports from Pokot, many more girls have been cut as a result. A recent UNFPA report estimates that there will be a 33% reduction in progress meaning up to 2 million more cases of FGM in next decade and 13 million more child/forced "marriages". https://www.unfpa.org/sites/default/files/resource-pdf/COVID-19_imp
We must therefore strengthen our efforts to mitigate against this disaster for all those girls facing such cruelty.
We at Beyond FGM have been unable to travel to Kenya this year due to Covid, BUT,
I am very happy to report that our partners on the ground in Pokot CICR (centre for indigenous child rights) are working hard to continue the grassroots work despite these challenges.
CICR have held a radio broadcast on local Pokot radio to inform the public about how to protect against Covid but also emphasising the anti FGM message. Whilst FGM is illegal in Kenya, sadly the practice prevails in most remote villages where the law is not enforced.
CICR have also made outreach visits to several remote communities to sensitise and empower families to abandon FGM and ECM. They have also distributed reusable menstrual hygiene kits to the girls of the villages they visited. These kits are a new enterprise created by CICR with financial support from Beyond FGM.
We heard sad news recently of a 15 year old girl from a village we had previously worked in has died due to complications in child birth. Apparently when the young woman was due to deliver and ran into difficulties the Traditional Birth Attendants (TBA,s) were too afraid to take her to hospital because of Covid. The unfortunate young woman then tragically passed away. May she R.I.P. This is the sad reality for so called "child brides" who are many times more likely to die in childbirth than young women over 18 years of age.
We are now planning for our annual Alternative Rite of Passage ceremony (ARP) in November/December in a new area. CICR team are currently in the process of making contacts with local Chiefs and Elders to mobilise the community so that sensitisation can begin early and in earnest.
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Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. Your support is absolutely vital and we can all play our part in the global fight to END FGM and ECM.