Counties practicing Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the country are leading in maternal deaths according to research.
Speaking in Sankuri, Garissa County during the international day of zero tolerance for FGM, principal secretary for state department of gender affairs Zeinab Hussein said that North Eastern region is leading in FGM practise at 97 percent against the country’s 21 percent.
“It’s only women who have undergone the cut that understand and know the complications they go through during child birth. This is a cultural that we should say no to and safe our women from imminent deaths,” Zeinab said.
The PS said that FGM was there before Islam and Christianity came to the region.
“This is purely a cultural issue that need to be interrogated keeping in mind the adverse side effects on the health of our mothers in the child bearing age group,” she said.
The national anti-FGM activist and former nominated MP Sophia Abdi said that she fought hard during her term to ensure that the anti-FGM bill was passed despite immense resistance from her male counterparts and especially from regions with high FGM prevalence rates.
“It was not easy. Some men told me on the face that you cannot legislate culture. It took a lot of convincing to pass the bill,” Sophia said.
Sophia who is the founder member of Womankind, an NGO based in Garissa town that assist and place children escaping FGM in school said that when the started the campaign way back in 1988, it was a taboo for one to talk about a woman private parts in public.
“We stood by our campaign strategy and because we were talking of what we had gone through and the adverse health side effects we were faced with, it was easier for us to face our adversaries. We are glad that today FGM can be talked in public gathering,” she said.
Sophia said that the gains made in the fight against FGM since the act came into effect has been encouraging but the enforcement has been lacking especially at the grassroots.
The activist urged the government to allocate more funds to the anti-FGM board to enable it carry out rigorous and sustained campaign at the grassroots.
The former legislator urged the youth to embrace the campaign against FGM saying that the boys should support their mothers and sisters in the campaign.
In his speech, UNICEF representative Werner Schultink said FGM rooted in tradition and culture , continue to affect million of girls and women every year where an estimated 3 million of them are at risk of undergoing FGM
Schultink said that although FGM is rooted in tradition should not be reason to fight harmful cultural practises.
He said the complications during child birth among them heavy bleeding, painful menstrual periods should and other health issues should form the basis in the fight against FGM.
The national theme for this year’s celebrations is working together to end FGM in Kenya by 2030.