UGANDA: Anti-FGM activists face hostility


Despite criticism from several activists, female genital mutilation is still a much-respected practice in Kapchorwa. It is still so popular that some women who have decided to stop supporting the practice have been ridiculed by their colleagues.

Ms Eunice Chesiro of Sipi sub-county has had to pay the heavy cost of spearheading the fight against the practice commonly known as FGM. A former surgeon, Chesiro is now one of the change agents trained by the Reproductive, Educative and Community Health (REACH) project.

"They are abusing me. They bring girls and forcefully command me to cut them but I have resisted. During the last cutting season, they kicked the door of my house asking if the girls to be circumcised were my daughters," a worried Chesiro says.

Chesiro who hails from Kenya but is married to a Ugandan is now thinking of going back home until the circumcision period is over.
She says she and her colleagues who have chosen to join the fight against FGM stand a risk of harassment and hostility during the circumcision season that runs through December

FGM is a traditional, deeply rooted practice that has consistently targeted women and girls in a number of countries. The Sebei consider it a ritual of passage from girlhood to womanhood and an intrinsic part of the transition to adulthood. But while critics have said the practice affects the physical and reproductive integrity, self-esteem and self-worth of the victims. While there is evidence to show that since the inception of the community managed RAECH project in 1995, the practice has gone down, the practice is still rampant among the Sebei.

Anti FGM advocates' leader Charles Chelimo says the practice is still common in the sub counties of Chekwasta, Kabei and Chesower in Bukwo district and Benet, Kabroron and Kwanyi sub-counties in Kapchorwa district.

With the bulk of REACH funds coming from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) amid decreasing contributions to the UN body from donors, the project has been limited in its campaign against the ritual.

Some of the anti FGM advocates are former mutilators and mentors who are asking for alternative sources of income, claiming that they used to earn a living out of the act.

"Some of us were promised heifers but we have never got them. And those who are still in the business of cutting women are now laughing at us. We are being tempted by this ridicule. It is only that some of us have been sensitised on the negative effects of the practice and we have resolved never to do it again," Kokop, a former traditional surgeon (mutilator) says.

Benet Youth Councillor Felix Mande says some of the residents request to be given money before they can drop the practice. But Chelimo says the financial constraints cannot allow REACH to meet all the needs of the advocates in the short term.

The advocates want other stakeholders to join UNFPA in funding the FGM fight. Otherwise, the recently passed AU Continental Policy Framework For Sexual And Reproductive Health and Rights, which calls for the elimination of harmful tradition practices such as FGM among others, may not be realised.

SOURCE: Daily Monitor
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