Global Resources

Handbook for cultural and religious leaders to end FGM

Publisher: African Women's Development & Communication Network
Publication Date: Jan 2014
What action can you take to address FGM? This handbook, produced by the African Women’s Development and Communications Network (FEMNET) is a behaviour change communication tool intended to expand the engagement of men in religious and cultural institutions to reach out to their communities to eradicate female genital mutilation (FGM) in Meru and Tharaka, Kenya. The publication clarifies some of the common myths and misconceptions that perpetuate FGM. It opens space for dialogue between religious, cultural leaders and members of the community and promotes alternative rite of passage. The project offers important lessons which will be documented and used to expand and inform interventions that seek to end FGM.

The handbook begins by explaining what FGM is, how and to whom it is done, myths and misconceptions about FGM, such as preserving sexual morality, curtailing women's sexual urges; upholding cultural tradition; the link between FGM and community identity; social pressure against women refusing to be circumcised (stigma, ridicule, etc.); and what Kenyan laws say about FGM, which encompasses a range of restrictions from performing the circumcision, aiding the perpetration of the procedure (failing to report the act to authorities, etc.), possession of a tool or equipment for a purpose connected with the performance of FGM, as well as penalties for ridiculing women who have not undergone the procedure or a man for marrying or otherwise supporting such a woman.

It then presents information related to the consequences of FGM, including sexual, gynaecological and child delivery. The social consequences of FGM are also addressed, some of which are: early pregnancies and marriage among girls who have undergone the cut; low student retention rate among girls who have endured FGM; poverty, as there are limited economic options for women, due to lack of education; defiance to school rules and teachers; and drug, substance abuse, etc.

This publication urges the 'Njuri Ncheke' custodians of the Ameru culture to openly talk against FGM; and reach out to their peers and community members to abolish the practice, and support the church in promoting alternative rites of passage (ARP). Further, they can engage with women in the community to better understand the how FGM impact on them. The leading churches in Meru and Tharaka are also encouraged to establish a joint response to FGM. Among the other contents of this handbook is a step-by-step ARP process of initiating girls into adulthood by replacing FGM with a human rights centred approach.