I have been an activist working towards ending Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) going on six years now as my community, Kuria, has one of the highest FGM prevalence rates worldwide.
Eighty Percent. Eighty percent of women and girls in my community will undergo female circumcision. Eight in ten women and girls, many of whom undergo the process as young as eight years old and become a statistic, part of the 9.3 million women in Kenya who have undergone FGM.
I founded Msichana Empowerment Kuria, a youth and women-led grassroots organization that actively works to end FGM in my community. We create sustainable solutions to realize social change to #EndFGM and other forms of violence against women and girls as well as create access to rights, inspire youth action through volunteerism, advocacy and grassroots movement building. At other levels we also work to influence policy and practices by participating in national, regional and international advocacy.
FGM practices are maintained largely due to cultural and societal pressures within communities and families and so therefore ending the practice requires large scale action to ‘Abandon the Cut’. FGM is largely grounded in beliefs, myths and misconception. For example, that young men cannot marry a woman who is uncircumcised for fear of being ostracized, or facing ramifications.
Our work has been based on tackling FGM as a social norm by leveraging our community’s social dynamics. We work to gain the trust and support of a core, influential group who agree to stop the cut and then mobilize a sufficient number of people to do the same, creating a social shift away from FGM as a cultural practice.
I strongly believe that young people, especially young women are the foundation of ending FGM. More than 63 million girls alive today have undergone FGM and will have to live with the lifelong threatening effects of the process. We are the best people to speak up about these issues and create change. To ensure that the cut ends with our generation, Msichana Empowerment Kuria leverages on the power of youth by facilitating conversations and educating communities.
As a grassroots activist, I am calling for increased investment to strengthen grassroots movements and enabling policy environments for people working to end this issue.
I see a world that honours and protects its women and girls, where someday my daughter and all girls of the world will grow free of violence and discrimination. It is our collective responsibility.
More on Natalie: http://youngleadersfordev.org/author/natalie-tingo/