Loita Maasai announced the abandonment of FGM/C
When SAFE Maa began their FGM/C abandonment campaign in 2010, 100% of Maasai girls were being cut. Through the use of Maasai traditional song and story, and follow up workshops, SAFE Maa opened a conversation about abandonment within the community. By 2015, 30% of girls were graduating through a new alternative ceremony which involved no cutting. The community was reaching a tipping point and it seemed that the end of FGM/C in Loita was in sight. However, in late 2017, a new development threatened to undo the community’s progress; a government legal crackdown on FGM/C was creating resistance to change within the community, as the people saw it as an external threat to their culture. Out of fear of arrest, people were starting to cut their daughters at night and in secret. It was at this point that the team decided to engage the Cultural Leadership. The time was right for the leaders in Loita to step up and support the abandonment campaign. In May 2018 all 42 cultural leaders were brought together by S.A.F.E. – the first time they had been together since 1992. SAFE Maa asked them if they would join S.A.F.E. on World Zero Tolerance to FGM/C day and declare abandonment. SAFE Maa argued that the Alternate Rite of Passage (ARP) was the right way to protect the culture. It involves all the same songs and rituals, the only difference is that at the end, the girl is cleansed with cow’s milk instead of being cut. The leaders not only agreed to join the declaration event, but took the opportunity of being together for the first time in over a quarter of a century to also bless the ARP.
Declaration of Abandonment
On the 6th February 2019, the Loita Maasai community were invited to join SAFE Maa to come together and witness the Cultural Leadership declare the abandonment of FGM/C and once again bless the newly named Loita Rite of Passage (LRP) – but this time publically. This was the first event of its kind in a Loita community. The attendees included the Permanent Secretary for Social Services and Gender Affairs, the Government’s Anti-FGM Board (who offered great support to SAFE Maa in the run up to the event), local politicians, three County First Ladies, SAFE Maa’s main donors J.A.C Trust and Orchid Project, as well as many partners and local health professionals.
By midday, over 3000 of the Loita Maasai community had assembled in the fields outside of the SAFE Maa office in Olmesutie. This small settlement had never seen anything even close to the scale of this event.
Read more about the event here.