Ending FGM in Kenyan Catholic Diocese Needs “everyone’s hand”: Official

CSA anti-FGM campaign group. Credit: St. Martin CSA/Facebook

An official of St. Martin Catholic Social Apostolate (CSA), an entity with the mission “to strengthen community capacity to care for and empower vulnerable people in mutually transformative relationships” in Kenya’s Catholic Diocese of Nyahururu is calling for “everyone’s hand in fighting” against the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

In an interview with ACI Africa, the coordinator of anti-FGM Campaign at St. Martin CSA said the practice is still rampant in Laikipia County that is covered by Nyahururu Diocese, because not everyone has embraced the goodwill to end it.

“If everyone can take the same kind of effort and goodwill, including the elders, political and religious leaders, and put their foot forward, we can end FGM,” Esther Maina told ACI Africa on April 14.

Ms. Maina said that the initiative to end the practice targets remote communities in Kenya’s Laikipia County because it is where FGM is not only rampant but also culturally and socially acceptable among the natives, requiring “everyone’s hand in fighting it.”

Ending the practice is challenging because it is passed on from one generation to another, she said, adding that residents embrace it for fear of being considered outcasts.


“When we talk about FGM in Laikipia, we have some communities, mostly the pastoral ones, which have embraced the culture and consider it as a rite of the rite,” Ms. Maina said.

She added that the girls are culturally required to undergo the rite, which is done by some elderly women “who are deep into this culture and have been entrusted with this activity by the community.”

The CSA official said that she found regrettable that a section of parents fosters the practice of FGM on their daughters because of the embedded tradition that women who have undergone the cut fetch more dowry than others. 

The Coordinator who has worked on the project for three years in Laikipia County reflected on some anti-FGM meetings during which it was observed that men who decline marrying ladies who have not undergone the cut become perpetrators of the practice. 

“We hold meetings with women and they say that some men refuse to marry uncut women, so they become perpetrators because the girls have to undergo the initiation so as to be married by the men,” she said.

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In the April 14 interview, Ms. Maina shared about the methods employed in fighting FGM in the Kenyan County including the formation of peer groups whose members are trained and commissioned to schools to hold anti-FGM campaigns.

She said that groups such as “Men Agents of Change (MAC)” and “young ambassadress” that CSA has established gather school-going girls and train them as peers in their respective institutions of learning to carry out campaigns aimed at raising awareness and sensitizing community members about the negative effects of FGM.

“We also do litigation when we realize that this person has forcefully taken the girl for circumcision,” Ms. Maina said, and explained, “We engage the legal process and they do their work.”

“We have women in every village to do this work; we also have religious leaders who use the pulpit to win the crowd to our direction,” she said, and acknowledged with appreciation the collaboration with personnel at health facilities in providing Psycho-social support to some victims of FGM.

Ms. Maina went on to highlight some of the challenges they have encountered in their efforts to fight against the practice of FGM.


“We find a lot of objections in some cases; some community members don’t want to hear about our campaigns. They say that the activity has been there for years and the women who participated in it while young girls are still alive,” she told ACI Africa during the April 14 interview. 

Despite the challenges, Ms. Maina shared a success story, recalling, “One man after going through the training was able to reconsider his decision to have his two daughters cut; he stopped the process and protected the daughters.”

Although the man faced hostility from the elders and the community, Ms. Maina recalled, “he saw it better not to decide for the girls by forcefully taking them through the process but rather to allow them to make the decision themselves.”

She said that although men are partly seen as the perpetrators of the activity, some of them have played a vital role in ending the FGM practice. 

“Men are fighting for the women so it is not just women fighting for themselves,” the CSA official said.

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Through MAC group whose members are trained by the Catholic entity in Nyahururu Diocese, Ms. Maina said, “These men have gone ahead to talk to their peers about the dangers and need to abolish FGM.”

As a way forward, “if the issue of dowry between the cut and the uncut which differs is reviewed, then it can contribute towards ending the menace,” she said, and explained, “Many parents see it as a source of income because the cut woman fetches more dowry for the parents than the uncut one.”

She expressed optimism that the efforts to end FGM will bear fruit in Laikipia County following an anti-FGM declaration signed by the MAA communities, which comprise the Maasai, Samburu, Njemps, and Ndorobos.

“This year in February, the MAA community in Laikipia North signed a declaration against FGM,” Ms. Maina said, adding, “This was a great boost in our work because it shows that the elders are taking up the fight.”

“We hope that with time, though we might not eradicate it 100 percent, we might be able to minimize it greatly,” she told ACI Africa during the April 14 interview.

Silas Mwale Isenjia is a Kenyan journalist with a great zeal and interest for Catholic Church related communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communication from Moi University in Kenya. Silas has vast experience in the Media production industry. He currently works as a Journalist for ACI Africa.