Valentine Nkoyo 1st August 2017
The Sheriff of Nottingham who is also the former Lord Mayor of Nottingham, Cllr Jackie Morris, her husband Reverend Andy Morris and Valentine Nkoyo CEO, Mojatu Foundation, paid a visit to Kenya meeting different stakeholders involved in the campaign against FGM while forging links between Nottingham and Kenya.
Following Nottingham’s declaration of Zero Tolerance to FGM in September 2016 and subsequent work done by Mojatu Foundation and the Sheriff in the UK parliament and the United Nations Conference in Vienna, the field trip to Kenya was organised to further the two parties contribution towards elimination of harmful traditional practices at the source country.The main aims of the visit were to learn and share Nottingham’s model, establish the current status and trend of FGM practices in Kenya. The visit also aimed to establish new partnerships and intervention programmes for engagement of Mojatu Foundation and to foster links with a number of Key institutions in Kenya for collaboration in the fight against the FGM practices.
The achievement of our aims during the two weeks (22nd April to 7th May) included strategic partner’s meetings, a public lecture, workshops and direct observation. Additionally, meeting the cutters and community dialogue in FGM hot spots were organised in addition to literature analysis. The potential partners include the Kenya National Anti FGM Board, UNICEF, Councils of Elders, County governments, faith leaders, grassroots NGOs, public and private universities, colleges amongst others.
Despite the Kenyan government banning FGM in 2011 and setting up an anti-FGM Board in 2013, the FGM practice continues with over 90% prevalence in certain affected communities. According to the Anti FGM Board, FGM is still widespread but there are 17 counties regarded as hotspots in the country where continuous interventions are required. The delegation visited some of the very remote areas including the Maasai Mara village where dialogues were exchanged with the elders, community leaders, survivors, cutters and young people.
Councillor Morris said “My role during the visit was not to tell people what to do or how to lead their lives, but it was more to understand and reason with them so that we can find ways to help by working alongside communities and looking for alternatives. I am very proud to have represented Nottingham, the City of Zero Tolerance to FGM, where I shared widely on the stance we as a city took. I am pleased that we had many platforms to share and learn”.
The team’s reception in Kenya by different stakeholders was evident of the willingness to join hands in tackling FGM and developing links between Nottingham and Kenya.
“I was very touched by the things I saw and heard. Small steps can lead to big changes” the Sheriff added.
Having conversations with the cutters and families that openly support and justify the reasons behind such a harmful practice was evident that this issue is very deeply rooted in community life. The conversations revealed the need for very innovative, supportive and development oriented initiatives to change their attitudes and perceptions. However, we also spent time with young people, elders, families, former cutters and survivors who want the cutting of girls to end. Supporting such individuals to become ‘Agents of Change’ in their own communities and celebrating them is fundamental in changing people’s mindsets. Learning of interventions that work will also help us with our UK campaigns and work within communities.
Valentine Nkoyo, CEO Mojatu Foundation said “As a young Maasai woman who has gone through so many challenges and escaped early marriage to get where I am today, it was heart-breaking to meet a 16 year old girl, who was cut and married off to an older man as a second wife and now has four children. When I left her little dark hut, it hit me so hard that my life could have easily gone down that road had I not fought so hard and found my voice. Millions of girls across the globe are still in such a situation. I am hopeful though that little acts of kindness from people wanting to make a difference can make the lives of such girls and women better. I am thankful to the Nottingham City Council for supporting our work and especially Councillor Morris for her passion and dedication”
The success of the trip was tremendous. During a meeting with the CEO of the Anti-FGM Board Bernadette Lolojo discussing partnership and good practice, Nottingham City’s Zero Tolerance stance was discussed and she was very enthusiastic and committed to even go further and have ‘Villages of Zero Tolerance to FGM’ in Kenya. A visit to the Machakos County Government, led to the county speaker confirming a visit to Nottingham to learn, share and make an initial commitment to be the first Zero Tolerant FGM County in Kenya.
There is also commitment from several universities, faith leaders, politicians, Community Based Organisations and other persons of influence to work with the Mojatu Foundation. Projects would include research, training, advocacy, awareness, support and other women empowerment initiatives. Dialogue with different influential members of the affected communities at the grassroots levels helped in mobilising and engaging communities positively. We hope to continue working with them as the ‘Community Gate Keepers’.
“FGM is a multi-faceted issue with links to serious health related issues, child marriage, teenage pregnancy, school drop-outs and other forms of abuse and discrimination and therefore needs a multi sectoral approach to tackle it effectively and in a sensitive manner that engages and supports affected communities. This can only be achieved through strong strategic partnerships” Valentine Nkoyo added.
Reverend Morris said, “I only went to Kenya as a ‘bodyguard/bag handler’, however within 48 hours I realised just what a powerful voice the church has in the community. I have started looking at new forms of dialogue where sex is something to be celebrated as opposed to being spoken of in terms of sin and condemnation. The church can surely find a way of talking about FGM openly and bring about positive change”
Joseph Ndaga, Mojatu Foundation Regional Coordinator said, “This is the right time for developing innovative solution to the elimination of FGM practices in Kenya and Africa. This visit is in line with the attainment of SDG 17 of fostering sustainable global partnership for sustainable development in Africa. All partners and stakeholders should remain committed to their promises so as together we can make this practice come to an end in our generation”.
We are appealing to well wishers to support our new programmes to support girls and women in remote areas in Kenya through education, training and other women empowerment initiatives which will be officially launched in December 2017.
We will be launching our fundraising for the programme in August.