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  FEMALE GENITAL MULTILATION

 

 

Community based FGM-Project in Simanjiro-District/Manyara-Region

1. Brief description of the situation and the problem

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is the traditional practice of initiating girls into womanhood. FGM among the Maasai is as high as 99%. FGM is one of the most strongly held tribal customs revered by both men and women among the Maasai people. Traditionally is not allowed to get married to an uncircumcised woman, all women must be circumcised in order to get married. So, FGM is part and parcel of the existence of the Maasai people from this perspective.

FGM subject women and girls to the violent process of cutting and removing all or part of their genitals especially the clitoris. Often local circumcisers, who have no medical training or capacity to deal with complications, use crude un-sterilized cutting metal instruments. FGM has very serious and irreversible physical and psychological effects on its victims such as extreme pain and shock, extensive bleeding, Sexually Transmitted Diseases including HIV transmission, problems during childbirth and continence.

Contrary to other tribes who practice FGM at a specific age, the Maasai people have no specific period of the year for FGM activities. Among Maasai FGM is done throughout the year when the girl is 13- 16 years of age. However, with the introduction of law by the Government of Tanzania to ban all violence against women and anti FGM campaigns going on in the country, the Maasai elders have agreed to stop FGM among their people but due to strongly held customs, FGM now is done secretly at any age without celebrations to avoid consequences of the law. At the ages of 13 to 16 only initiation ceremony are done but the process of cutting genitals has already been done long before.

The highest institution in the Maasai tradition is the Laibon, Laibon is monarchy, and this institution links the Maasai with their God. In essence the Laibon is mostly the spiritual leader. Laibon can set cleansing and punishment criteria if the Maasai go contrary to their Godís wish. There are two Laibon for Maasai in both Kenya and Tanzania, their area of operations are such that in Tanzania the Loliondo area in Ngorongoro district belongs to the Laibon in Kenya whereas in Kenya Loitokitok area in Kajiado district belongs to the Laibon in Tanzania. This set up has been there even before the coming of colonialist.

Second to the Laibon, is the Council of Traditional Leaders (CTL), the CTL have 27 members each is responsible for a certain location. So there are two CTL for all Maasai people in Kenya and Tanzania, in each country the CTL are advised by two elected elders. The CTL among other things is responsible for all administrative issues among the Maasai, the CTL are custodian of the Maasai traditional laws and practices including FGM in consultation with the Laibon. To institute any changes to the existing traditions and norms the CTL confers with the Laibon so as to clear out doubt for reprisal from their God. As administrators CTL members solve any traditional conflict and give punishment to traditional law offenders. The CTL are also responsible for advising the Laibon on the time for passing out from one age group to elderly group.

Below the CTL are the elderly followed by different age groups. A woman in Maasai traditional bears the age groups of their respective husbands.

 

Afya Bora is planning a project that intends to work with all acceptable traditional set up structures bringing them in contact with the formal structure, i.e. the district, ward and village leadership and helping empower the victims of FGM through a community based approach that will ensure sustainability.

At community level the project intends to work with Laibon, CTL, Age group leaders and form FGM committee and village FGM educators (both comprising of circumcisers, elders, victims of circumcisions and other community members).

In schools the project will work closely with teachers selected by pupils themselves to serve as their guardians for issues of FGM and FGM peer educators (selected by pupils among themselves).

Objectives of the project

To facilitate collaboration with relevant community groups to reduce FGM among the Maasai in Simanjiro district

To develop a system for community sensitization and mobilization on FGM in a sustainable manner

To establish procedures for supporting of FGM victims and monitoring of FGM activities at community (village) level

To raise awareness on FGM among school population for informed sexual and reproductive health rights in order to prevent FGM

To enhance positive peer norms and values among school youth and enable them to stand against sexual abuse and gender based inequality including FGM.