WHOlives has been working with police in Kuria, which is in southwest Kenya, to end child marriages and female genital mutilation (FGM). We asked Patrick Njoroge, the police commander for Kuria East, about how the horrible practice of FGM is impacting families. He told us what he’s seeing and how WHOlives is helping by creating safe spaces and donating fuel for police cars so that officers can investigate more cases.
Read the words of Patrick Njoroge:
FGM has had a negative effect on the Kuria community. After girls undergo the cut, they must have sex with young men, which the community says is to ‘test’ if the girls have become adults. This has led to early pregnancies, and girls are forced to drop out of school. It has also led to early marriages of underage girls who are unable to take good care of the children they give birth to. Many girls are married off without their consent, leading to many family breakups.
Girls who refuse to undergo the cut are viewed as outcasts and are never accorded any respect by the community. They are ridiculed by their parents, siblings and the community as a whole, so they can give in and undergo FGM. Many girls give in because they find no place in society. Parents refuse to educate girls who refuse to undergo FGM, and this greatly affects the girls.
Those who fight FGM from the Kuria community are subjected to all forms of violence. Their properties are destroyed, and their lives and those of their families are always in danger because they are perceived as enemies of society. The police have to provide security for them any time they are under attack, for the community is known for being violent. The security of informers is very paramount in the fight against FGM, and the identity of informers is always kept a secret.
The government is committed to ending FGM, and with the help of all stakeholders, it’s now on a downward trend. Sensitization of the community and empowering of the girls to make independent decisions is very important in order to end FGM. The police made many arrests in December when the cut was going on. Some parents have been convicted of imprisonment between two to five years, and many more cases are ongoing in court. The search for more parents who subjected their girls to FGM is still ongoing, and anyone found culpable will be arrested and prosecuted.
WHOlives has been one of the partners that have greatly helped in the fight against FGM. WHOlives helped establish safe spaces in all police stations in Kuria, where we now have beds with mattresses, blankets, bed sheets and other necessary items for girls. Snacks were provided so that we could feed girls who were rescued at night since most of them came to the stations while hungry. Safe spaces were used to host girls who ran away from their homes to escape FGM. They provided a conducive environment for girls before they could be placed in rescue centers. Safe spaces will also be used to host mothers and kids who run away from their homes due to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). They will also be used as holding places for juveniles who are in conflict with the law instead of placing them in cells with adults.
WHOlives assisted the police greatly by providing funds to buy fuel so that the police could conduct patrols, rescues and interventions where necessary. Some cash was also provided to buy airtime for communication, which came in handy. We appreciate WHOlives so much for the support and assistance accorded in the fight against FGM. With the approach that WHOLives has come up with, the fight against FGM has gone a notch higher. We promise to work with WHOlives to fight to end FGM.
Our thanks for the kind words and the partnership with Kenyan police!