Making a Rite Right
Together, we can eliminate female genital mutilation by 2030. Doing so will have a positive ripple effect on the health, education and economic advancement of girls and women.
– UN Secretary-General António Guterres –
According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), an additional 2 million girls are projected to be at risk of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) by 2030. Up to 4 million girls and women are at risk every year.
Loreto’s Abundant Life Centre just south of Nairobi, Kenya, receives many reports of women and girls who are forcibly ‘circumcised’. Only recently, Sr Dr Ephigenia Gachiri ibvm heard the story of a college girl who had been forcibly ‘circumcised’ by her mother, despite the opposition of her father, whose tribe didn’t partake in the harmful practice. She told Sr Ephigenia that her mother had organised a 14th birthday celebration for her at her grandmother’s home. After the celebration, a group led by her mother entered the room where the girls were sleeping and took them, blindfolded and tied up, to another location to be cut. Physically and psychologically scarred for life, the girl said she felt betrayed and could never imagine forgiving her mother.
In most societies where FGM is practised, it is considered a cultural tradition, a justification used to argue its continuation. It is regarded as a necessary part of raising a girl, preparing her for adulthood, and increasing marriageability. Parents state their children need to be prepared to enter adolescence, believing FGM is part of an original ritual rite of passage. Other drivers for the practice are economic hardship and uncertainty, fear and social pressures, and the desire for power and control.
Since 1998, Sister Ephigenia and her team of dedicated mentors and guides, have worked with local communities to end FGM through awareness and education, including providing alternative cultural ‘rites of passage’ for girls. Thanks to the ongoing support of MWIA’s generous donors, they continue to hear stories of hope. Recently a former participant in the community awareness program aimed at ending the practice of FGM reached out to Sr Ephigenia to share how she had rescued six girls from the cutting knife.
Mary* had received a call from her sister-in-law, informing her of a plan to circumcise girls in her village. Aided by local tribal militia, the older women of the area were forcing parents to take their girls to be cut. Putting their safety at risk, the two women managed to help the girls escape under cover of darkness and find refuge. A terrifying ordeal – climbing out of windows in the dead of night, hiding in rain-soaked sugarcane fields, while their captors prepared in the next room to perform the procedure. Despite a few scratches, the girls were saved from more severe genital injury and lifelong pain and trauma.
This is just one story of hope – there are countless others.
I’m really very proud that we’ve reached nearly 70,000 people over the past six years, including over 11,000 this year despite the challenge of COVID lockdowns.
– Sr Ephigenia Gachiri IBVM –
This Christmas, making a donation will help ensure Sr Ephigenia and her incredible team can continue their life-changing work.
Together we can help protect women and girls in Kenya.
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