As a native of West Pokot County in Kenya, I have a deeply personal connection to the challenges posed by Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and child marriage within my community. In this blog, let’s delve into the urgent need to address these issues in Kenya and the wider African Union (AU) context.
Understanding the Issue
FGM, often a rite of passage in some communities, poses serious physical and psychological risks to girls and women. Child marriage, on the other hand, robs young girls of their childhood, education, and opportunities, forcing them into adult responsibilities before they are ready.
The Situation in Kenya
West Pokot County, my home, is a prime example of the regions where these practices are prevalent. The Pokot community has traditionally practiced FGM, often without fully understanding its consequences. Child marriage is also common, with girls being married off at a young age, denying them their right to education and a choice in their futures.
The Call for Change
Efforts to end FGM and child marriage in Kenya are gaining momentum. Government initiatives, NGOs, and community-led programs are working tirelessly to raise awareness about the harmful effects of these practices. The legal age for marriage has been raised in Kenya to above 18 years, but enforcement remains a challenge.
The Role of Education
Education is a powerful tool in ending FGM and child marriage. When girls are educated, they are more likely to delay marriage and have the knowledge and confidence to challenge harmful traditions. My own story highlights the importance of education as a pathway to change.
The African Union’s Role
While progress is being made at the national level, the African Union can play a pivotal role in addressing these issues on a continental scale. Collaborative efforts among AU member states can lead to the development of comprehensive policies and strategies to end FGM and child marriage.
Our Hopes for the AU
- Policy Framework: We hope to see the African Union develop a comprehensive policy framework that specifically addresses FGM and child marriage, providing guidelines for member states to follow.
- Education Initiatives: The AU can invest in education programs that target communities where FGM and child marriage are prevalent. These programs should emphasize the benefits of education and dispel myths surrounding these practices.
- Support for Victims: It’s crucial that the AU supports survivors of FGM and child marriage, providing access to healthcare, counseling, and legal assistance. This can help break the cycle of these harmful practices.
- Community Engagement: Engaging with local communities, like my Pokot community, is essential. The AU should work closely with grassroots organizations to understand cultural nuances and promote change from within.
In conclusion, my story is a powerful reminder of the real people affected by FGM and child marriage. Kenya is making strides in addressing these issues, but there is much work to be done. The African Union has the potential to drive change at a continental level, and we hope to see it take a leading role in the fight to end these harmful practices once and for all.
Let us stand together to protect the rights and futures of girls in Kenya, throughout Africa, and around the world. Together, we can make a difference and raise our voices against FGM and child marriage.