International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation: Strengthening responses to violence against women and girls in Kenya

Louise Hemfrey | Feb 06, 2019
Women holding hands

Violence against women and girls is both a cause and a consequence of gender inequality. Globally, at least 1 in 3 women experience violence in their lifetime. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is one form of violence that aims to control women and girl’s sexuality and behaviour. Today on International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, Policy and Programmes Officer Louise Hemfrey (pictured below) shares her reflections on Womankind’s work with FIDA Kenya.

Our partner FIDA Kenya has trained survivors of FGM as ambassadors against harmful traditional practices so that they can raise awareness of the rights of women and girls and how they can claim their right to a life free from violence. By training community elders, police and health workers on laws protecting women and girls from violence, our partner FIDA Kenya have been supporting them to collectively eliminate FGM and early marriage in their communities.

Louise H Final

“Last September marked my 2nd anniversary of working at Womankind Worldwide and I spent it, fittingly with one of the partners that I have been working with from the very first weeks of my time here: FIDA Kenya.

From the UK, I have coordinated the monitoring and reporting of our UK Aid Match Project ‘Community responses to Violence against Women and Girls’. The project activities came to a close on 30th September 2018 after three years of successful interventions that built upon the individual needs and resources in two counties in Kenya: Kajiado and Trans Nzoia.

On my final visit to the partner offices in Nairobi, the FIDA team and I reflected upon both the accomplishments, as well as unexpected challenges, that we have overcome to enable the project’s success. 

These successes have included;

1. Increased awareness of women survivors of gender-based violence to seek social security and economic empowerment.

“I started attending the group therapy. It gave me the confidence to get my livelihood back and work on myself. Now I’m strong.” - Lizzie, Client


2. Women and girls are more able to speak about child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutiliation (FGM), and to communicate these issues to others in their community.

“With support from FIDA Kenya, no man can force me to have sex with them. I have the knowledge which means I have the power, I know my principles and my rights. My body is my body; no man will take it for himself.” - Olerai, Women’s Group Member (pictured right)

3. Healthcare professionals adapting their treatment plan for patients once they have been trained on women’s rights awareness, social responsibility and action to combat FGM and child, early and forced marriage

“The training and follow-up meetings have been a great benefit to me personally, learning about gender-based violence and FGM has gone a long way to helping me handle the cases that come to me, as well as more general hospital work.” - Catherine, Head of Maternal & Child Health Ngong Hills Hospital

Sammy Leshore

Of course, no project that covers such a historically ingrained and socially complex issue comes without its challenges. For our colleagues at FIDA Kenya and the pioneering community members who have seen the changes taking shape, they know that there is still work to be done.  

“The main problem I see is culture; issues such as rape cases are considered normal, forced marriage – normal. There still needs to be education to let people know it is not right.” - Sammy, Chair of Council of Elders, Ongata Rongai (pictured above left)

For myself, going forward, the rich experience I have gained improved my understanding of the importance of community leadership in realising a project’s goals. I am also incredibly excited to move forward with Womankind in realising their organisational goal of empowering women and building solidarity in the women’s movement, so that traditional harmful practices, like FGM, will be targeted not only at a community level, but a national and international level as well.”

UK Aid
This project was kindly funded by the
UK Government's Department for 
International Development 
through the UK Aid Match scheme. 

This article first appeared in our Spring Newsletter. For exciting updates from partners and projects across our five focus countries, read our latest newsletter here.

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