Mairéad Cullen in Kenya – Report 1
When we hear about incidences of female genital cutting in the media, people are often shocked and upset. Calls for arrests, eradication and a ban on female genital cutting are heard as people are motivated to champion for this controversial issue. However, I feel it is rare that the issue of female genital cutting is reported accurately, reflecting the true nature of why it occurs. Did you know that the fear of ostracisation for the family and that their daughter be unmarried in a rural community is sometimes considered worse than being circumcised? Why does it happen in the first place? What are the risks involved? And have you heard about the numerous communities in the Kipkelion district of Kenya who are trying to stop this age old practice and replace it with an alternative rite of passage for their girls with the help of an Irish charity called Friends of Londiani?
Friends of Londiani are an Irish registered charity working in the Londiani part of Kenya since 2002. It began work with the Bethel Children’s Home and one small women’s group in Londiani but now works with numerous community groups across the Kipkelion District. The charity works in partnership with the people of Londiani to develop and complete sustainable community projects to enable people to achieve an improved quality of life based on their values.
I travelled to Londiani last July to make a radio documentary about Female genital cutting and the alternative rite of passage. Kipkelion district has a population of 206,000 people and is situated in the Rift Valley, one of Kenya’s seven provinces. Londiani is a division of Kipkelion District and town where Friends of Londiani office is based. I also visited Benditai, Lelsothet and Kopkwet village. It was my first time in Africa and my first time to report from a foreign country. Female genital cutting is an extremely sensitive topic and not a topic you can just bring up in conversation. Therefore, I was relying on the strong relationships and contacts that Helen Concannon, the director of Friends of Londiani, had developed over the ten years she’s worked there. Helen introduced me to numerous men and women who spoke to me about female genital cutting. Internationally, it is referred to as female genital mutilation (FGM) or female genital cutting (FGC) but at village level, in the rare situations when it is discussed, it is simply referred to as being ‘open’, ‘cut’ or ‘closed’. Under the 2010 new constitution of Kenya, Female circumcision is illegal. However, this practice does still continue in secret. More in the next blog.
Please note: The views and opinions expressed in blogs under the Simon Cumbers Media Fund are those of the documentary maker / or their interviewees. They do not necessarily reflect the views of Irish Aid, the Department of Foreign Affairs or the Irish Government.