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Loita Maasai to announce the abandonment of FGM/C

Date: 6th February 2019 – World Zero Tolerance to FGM/C Day

Location: Olmesutie, The Loita Hills, Narok County

Event theme: Zero Tolerance to FGM/C, Empalata emuratare oo ntoyie katukul

Participants: The Loita Community, SAFE Maa, Prof Margaret Kobia PhD MGH Cabinet Secretary for Public Services and Gender Affairs, the CEO and Chair of the Governments Anti FGM Board, representatives from partner NGOs and other stakeholder groups.

In 2010, in the remote Loita Hills, a group of young Maasai known as SAFE Maa began singing cultural songs to their community in order to start a conversation about FGM/C. The Maasai have the 4th highest rate of FGM/C in Kenya at 74%. It was worse in Loita – prior to SAFE Maa’s intervention, 100% of girls were undergoing type two circumcision – the removal of the labia and the clitoris. Incredibly, after just eight years of campaigning, 30% of girls are now graduating through the Alternate Rite of Passage (ARP), and a further 60% graduating through a much lesser cut known as Kisasa, and are moving towards abandonment.

But during the ‘cutting season’ in December 2017, the authorities threatened a crackdown of FGM/C in Loita, creating a new climate of suspicion, that was in danger of making families still committed to FGM/C to cut their daughters secretly. For girls, to be cut in secret, at night, and without a ceremony, was not only dangerous, but denied them the important cultural celebration of their graduation to womanhood.

In response, in June 2018, SAFE Maa convened a meeting of all the 42 cultural leaders in Loita to discuss how this secret and illegal cut could lead to a loss of traditional culture. Remarkably, it was the first time the cultural leadership had all met together since 1992. The Project Managers argued that the Alternate Rite of Passage (ARP) developed by the traditional circumcisers themselves, was the way to preserve the culture. The only change is that the cutting itself is replaced with the pouring of cow’s milk to cleanse. All other aspects of this important rite remain the same.

The cultural leaders not only wholeheartedly agreed to lead the community in a Loita wide declaration of abandonment, but took the opportunity of being together to officially bless the ARP. The declaration on February 6th will show the community that the leadership now believe the ARP to be the best way of preserving and guarding Maasai Culture. The same leadership that resisted SAFE Maa even discussing the issue eight years ago are coming together to announce the end of FGM/C in Loita, and to bless the ARP again, but this time publically, as the accepted graduation for Loita women.

‘This day will give the cultural leaders an opportunity to come together with the leading women and traditional circumcisers to express their desire to end FGM/C. After eight years of campaigning by SAFE Maa, this ceremony and blessing of the ARP by the leaders of our community means the end of FGM/C is nearly here’ Sarah Tenoi and Amos Leuka, SAFE Maa Project Managers

‘In support of the abandonment of FGM/C, we call upon the Maasai Community to lead in child protection and adopt the new ARP in respect to a girl’s right’ Francis Lemelony Poyio, Loita Maasai Cultural Chief.

For more information about the event, please email alice@safekenya.org