KENYA: Parents Force 150 Girls to Undergo 'Cut' in District
Over 150 girls have been subjected to the 'cut' in the past two weeks in Tot, Tunyo and Tirap divisions of Marakwet district. Close to 300 girls have fled their homes in the same period to rescue centres to avoid undergoing the rite.
According to Tot Anti-Female Genital Mutilation coordinator, Lydia Kanda, many girls continue to be received at Tot and Kakimiti centres in fear of being forcefully circumcised at their homes.
This latest development throws into disarray an education programme that was to run between December 11 and 19 as an alternative rite of passage.
Its organizers, spearheaded by World Vision's Tot Anti-FGM programme, might be forced to extend the training beyond 19 to forestall possibility of some of the girls being forced to undergo the rite if released earlier from the rescue centres.
So bad is the situation that the school-going girls, most of whom are aged between 9 and 15, frown at the thought of having to go home before the end of the holiday.
"We are worried that if we go back home, we might be forced into circumcision. Our education will be greatly affected," said one of the girls.
Efforts by anti-FGM activists to rescue some of the girls have been ruthlessly resisted by adherents of the rite and close relatives. Indeed, some have had to endure beatings in the course of their crusade.
"My attempts to save two girls from a circumciser's knife earned me severe beating and I can no longer venture into the villages for fear of my life," says an activist.
The community is so hostile that even the provincial administration seems helpless to intervene as more girls continue to face the knife.
According Mrs Kanda, there is little they can do other than providing refuge to those who manage to escape.
"Our priority is to continue giving refuge to those at the centres until such a time that we feel their safety is assured before allowing them to go home. But what complicates matters is that some girls have willingly undergone the rite in spite of continued campaigns against it. This remains our greatest challenge to winning the war against the out dated and dehumanizing practice," she said, calling on other stakeholders to do more to arrest the alarming trend that threatens the education of girls.
Meanwhile, the first batch of girls who have undergone training in life skills will pass out today.
Female circumcision of girls less than 18 years is outlawed in the Children's Act. However, it is widely practiced among the pastoral North Rift communities. The continued female 'cut' has been blamed for the low enrolment, retention and completion rates in the school system as well as rampant early marriages and high illiteracy levels in the region.
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