How can young people and data help end Female Genital Mutilation? Natalie, a Youth Power Accountability Advocate, explains – part of our blog series to mark International Women’s Day.
Robi. This isn’t just name of a girl that could be from my community. This girl represents dreams, ambitions, goals for a better future for their community and country.
Robi is born into a community that offers two stark paths for her future.
One path: at age nine, ten ,eleven, twelve she will undergo Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) officially marking her entry into adulthood. This will involve cutting her clitoris and labia, often using unsterilised blades and knives without anesthetic. She will experience excruciating pain but will not cry because it is a show of cowardice. She will experience severe bleeding, and possibly infections, infertility and even death. But if she does survive, Robi’s pain does not end with the cut of the blade. She relives the trauma for the rest of her life by the scar that is left. In most cases she will get married, which means an end to her education.
Another path: she goes to school and graduates. Her educations helps her have a career, earn an income and raise a healthy family. She is not subjected to FGM.
Today 200 million women and girls are living with the lifelong effects of the cut. And the number is set to rise if we do nothing. In Africa, 3 million girls are at risk of Female Genital Mutilation. In Kenya the Kuria community has one of the highest female circumcision prevalence rates at 84% according to a recent report by the Kenya Health and Demographic survey meaning 8 in every 10 girls as young as 8 are at a risk of being cut every single year, Somali (94%), Samburu (86%) coming in first and second.
FGM prevents millions of girls and young women worldwide from having a fair shot at life. What role do young people have in ending FGM, other forms of violence against women and girls, the empowerment of all women and girls realisation of gender equality?
We account for more than half of the world’s population – that in itself gives us the power to call our governments to action. In Kenya the movement to end FGM in communities is being run by young people. They are organising rescuing girls, reporting cases and using education as a powerful tool for social change. They are calling on their local leaders and government to strengthen the implementation of the laws.
The power of youth and data
This is why I became a Accountability Advocate as part of the Youth Power campaign, to hold decisions makers to account in my country and end Female Genital Mutilation.
I work with other young people to collect data about the effects of FGM in communities across Kenya. We use that data to hold local decision and national decision makers to account. The power of young people combined with real time data, set ways to measure progress, and funding directed towards supporting grassroots work will make the difference.
Ending Female Genital Mutilation, child marriage and other harmful practices towards women will not only help achieve gender equality, but every single one of the Global Goals. Without Gender Equality, how can we expect to achieve: Goal 1 – No Poverty; Goal 2 – Zero hunger; Goal 3 – Good Health and Well-being; Goal 4 – Quality Education; Goal 8 – Economic growth; Goal 10 – Reduced inequality; Goal 16 – Peace Justice and Strong Institutions.
Soon our generation will be the key decision makers in our communities and countries: the future circumciser, council of elder, parent, administrator, opinion leader. By ensuring that all young people girls and boys are involved in the movement we are certain to build a generation that will stand up against the cut, child marriage and violence. We are raising our voices and standing together to make sure gender equality becomes a reality by 2030.
I look forward to a time when Robi will live a life free from violence, attend school, and be provided with platforms to realise her full potential. Because when women and girls win we all win.
This blog is part of our #YouthPower series for International Women’s Day, find out more here.
Natalie is a youth & women’s advocate, girls rights activist, founder & executive director of Msichana Empowerment Kuria is a women-led community based organization in rural Kenya.
She is passionate about girls’ rights to end poverty and reduce inequality by addressing Sexual Reproductive Health Rights. She partners with girls, their communities and stakeholders to advance Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights as Human Rights, build the agency for girls to demand for them through girl-led initiatives, and influence policy and investments at the county level.
Natalie has been a girls rights activist for 8 years now during which she has mobilized more than 50,000 community members through community dialogues, public rallies, marches to raise awareness & women empowerment initiatives for an end to violence & discrimination against girls, girl-led and focused initiatives with 2,000 most vulnerable girls through girl village safe space, mentorship & skill workshops in Kuria, rural Kenya.