Ending FGM/C: Alternative Rites of Passage
As this year comes to a close, we wanted to share with you an update on Amref’s efforts to end FGM/C (Female Genital Mutilation or Cutting) in Africa. We also want to take this opportunity to say thank you to Amref's wonderful supporters - it is your support that helps to make projects like this possible.
Amref has worked closely with Maasai communities across Kenya and Tanzania for over fifty years, collaboratively developing lasting solutions to health issues. Today, young women and girls in these communities are changing attitudes towards FGM/C, leading conversations about Alternative Rites of Passage (ARP), securing a brighter future for the next generation of girls.
Why is FGM/C practised?
FGM/C is practised worldwide, for cultural, social, or religious reasons. For the Maasai people, FGM/C – or ‘the cut’ as it’s commonly known – represents a rite of passage for young girls, marking their transition into adulthood.
Aside from the physical and psychological trauma associated with FGM/C, the practice also adversely affects girls’ choices. When a girl is cut, she is considered ready for marriage and motherhood; when she is married, the family receives a dowry. That’s why girls that undergo the cut are often made to leave education, enter into forced early/child marriage, and experience teenage pregnancy.
"When I was six years old, my elder sister got cut. It was so painful for her. She bled for almost two months and was later married off. She wasn’t able to complete her primary school education. So, I tried to imagine, this is what I am going to have to go through."
Student at Maasai Mara University and participant in Amref’s Alternative Rites of Passage programme.
Since Amref’s ARP work began in 2009,
Attempts to forcefully put a stop to FGM/C often end up causing more harm than good.
Criminalisation fails to address the reasons why communities practice - pushing families to perform the cut in secret, often crossing borders to where FGM/C is legal.
At Amref, we know that understanding the roots of the practice is vital to putting an end to it. That’s why our approach recognises the cultural importance of this tradition and the need for communities to lead on the creation of an alternative. In this process, the community comes to a consensus on an Alternative Rite of Passage, allowing them to abandon the cut – for good.
Ending FGM/C in Kajiado
The project in Kajiado aims to end FGM/C through dual sexual health and hygiene education, teaching young girls about their rights, body autonomy and alternatives to FGM/C. This empowers them to speak with their communities about the dangers associated with the cut.Read more about the programme in Kajiado, here
"Without FGM you can go far"
Anne, secondary school student, told Amref UK’s CEO about how the sessions have helped her realise her dreams:
“They used to say that without FGM you are not a woman like others. But when I came here my mind expanded. Without FGM you can go far. You can achieve your dreams. I want to be a lawyer, to defend rights and to represent my community. I’m really grateful for this project”.
Inter-generational community dialogue is crucial to the success of ARP projects, including elders, young boys and girls, parents, religious leaders and ‘cutters’ in conversations around alternatives to FGM/C.
Months of these community conversations culminated in Meto village’s first community-led ARP ceremony in July 2021, in which 300 girls came together with their community to celebrate their graduation into womanhood – without the cut.
Pictured: Maasai men celebrating at an ARP ceremony, Tanzania (c) Adrian Mgaya
"I am now in university pursuing my dream.”
Lillian shared how the project impacted her:
“Luckily for me, I was able to learn about Amref’s ARP programme. I convinced my parents and they allowed me to join and complete the programme. This allowed me to continue with my education and I am now in university pursuing my dream.”
With the knowledge, skills and confidence gained from the Alternative Rites of Passage project, girls like Lillian are teaching their peers and wider communities about the dangers of FGM/C, helping them to abandon the practice in place of alternatives.
Please consider giving a gift today to help more girls like Lillian end FGM/C in their communities.
Thank you so much for your support.
Donate to help end FGM/C
Give a gift today to support more communities abandon FGM/C - securing a brighter future for young girls
could support a girl to graduate through an Alternative Rite of Passage ceremony
could train two village leaders on alternatives to FGM/C
could fund three school sessions on FGM/C, providing a safe space for children to learn about their bodies and rights
All images © Jeroen Van Loon, Joost Bastmeijer, Adrian Mgaya, Steve Kagia, and Zulani TV for Amref Health Africa.