Last week, in the grounds of Maparasha Primary School in Kajiado Central, 420 young girls washed their clothes in anticipation of the Community Led – Alternative Rite of Passage (CL – ARP) ceremony.
This ceremony is the culmination of many months of work with the community. That work involves bringing together girls aged 11 to 19 in a workshop to learn about sexual and reproductive health and their rights, the danger of FGM/C, basic communication skills to enhance their knowledge and their self-esteem.
The community-led approach also ensures that there is a support network for these young girls. It includes the community’s custodians of culture and decision makers including elders, morans, religious leaders and county administrators.
Together, they decided to end the practice of FGM/C and adopt the Alternative Rite of Passage ceremony to reflect their own cultural heritage and values.
Why Alternative Rites of Passage?
Women and girls: agents of change
For over three decades, Amref Health Africa has been partnering communities to change attitudes towards FGM/C, brokering conversations about alternatives to the cut, to secure a brighter future for young women and girls and the wider community. At the foundation of this approach is a deep respect and appreciation of the traditions and cultures of each unique community.
Member of Parliament for the area Hon. Kanchory, Elijah Memusi reinforced the importance of the community support to ensure lasting change:
"Girls and women are an important part of development and progress in the community. We can only achieve this if we support our young Maasai girls and encourage them to stay in school, by empowering them to take up more space and become agents of change in their communities. The work done with Amref to fight FGM/C in Kajiado is becoming a legacy in this community."
CL - ARP
Amref Programme Manager Mr Denge Lugayo celebrated the parents, community leaders and young girls for choosing the CL-ARP and supporting Maasai girls to achieve their dreams:
“Community-led – ARP is a sustainable and important facet in the fight against FGM/C because it engages all decision-makers at the grassroots level through dialogue to support the most vulnerable in society.”
The last day of the workshop, the girls taking the CL-ARP were joined by elders who give them blessings in the form of traditional chants, and in the evening they celebrated with songs, dances and contests followed by the lighting of candles to signify choosing education for a better future instead of FGM/C and early marriage.
What happens after the ceremony?
Amref Project Administrator Christine Kasaine explained that after the Rite of Passage ceremony, girls are enrolled into a monitoring programme which follows the girls as they pursue their own futures. It provides information on their education, health and socio-economic status until they turn 24 years old.
“So far we are tracking 3,000 girls from past ARPs in Kajiado and today we have added another 420 girls who we will continue empowering so that they avoid early pregnancy, early marriage and associated sexually transmitted diseases and conditions such as fistula.”
Six months after the CL-ARP process, the community also helps to facilitate a follow-up on the girls who graduated. Additionally, there is a girls’ symposium that occurs a year after each ARP, where all the girls who took part in the initiative assemble to share their journeys and the challenges encountered after graduation. The symposiums help to find ways to mitigate the challenges and have revealed that CL-ARP has a 98% success rate.