Photo Credits: Alessandra Perotti

Ending FGM in Kenya: the story of Mercy and Agnes

Equality Now

19 December 2016

When someone says "it’s cutting season" **, just a few realize they’re talking about cutting human beings.

Girls all around the world are the first target of female genital mutilation (FGM). Girls as young as 1 year old. Girls violated in the name of culture, for the sake of control over their bodies and sexuality. Millions of girls who are subjected to this human rights violation and abuse, hidden behind a veil called ‘tradition.’  

Children like Mercy and Agnes, sisters who were 11 and 10 when they found out they were about to be cut. They knew what was coming: the female genital mutilation ceremony was planned in Ngoilale, Narok County, Kenya. Mercy and Agnes wanted to escape, but that wasn’t an option: what could two little girls do on their own? So, they decided to pretend to ‘play along’ and even go through some of the rite of passage rituals in the days preceding the FGM part of the ceremony.

But that day came: that morning, Mercy and Agnes were to be mutilated.

They ran.

They found shelter at their local pastor’s home, then with the local chief, who brought them to the Tasaru Ntomonok Initiative (TNI) Rescue Center.

Six years later, on 4 December 2016, the girls finally hugged their families again. Agnes Pareiyio, founder of TNI, accompanied them to reunite with their family and community members along with law enforcement agents and officers from the government Children’s Department from Narok County.

The final step of a long and successful reconciliation journey.

Mercy and Agnes are part of the Maasai community. In this society, when girls are forced to undergo FGM, they are pushed not only by their parents, but also by other members of their family and community. This is why TNI meets with parents, relatives, and the society, backed up by elders and provincial administrators. Families have to accept their daughters’ decisions, agreeing not to subject them to FGM or early marriage, and to allow them to continue their education. TNI also holds Alternative Rites of Passage (ARP), so that girls can become full members of their community - without the cut. 

Several meetings - where parents and relatives are also educated on the health complications of FGM and on Kenya’s anti-FGM law - eventually lead to a reconciliation ceremony, after which the girls are reintroduced into their community. They continue to be monitored by area chiefs and TNI pays regular visits to assess their progress both at home and in school. The girls are also expected to write letters to TNI to keep the organization updated and inform them if they feel threatened with FGM or early marriage.

The Tasaru Ntomonok Initiative, which has been working with Equality Now for many years, brings together families, teachers, police, doctors, local governments and community leaders to educate and provide training to deter FGM in Maasai communities, and to provide safe havens for girls. We support their efforts to build strong community-based support to end female genital mutilation.

**  Mass mutilations typically occur in when schools are closed for the holidays.

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Ending FGM in Kenya: the story of Mercy and Agnes
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When someone says "it’s cutting season" **, just a few realize they’re talking about cutting human beings.

Girls all around the world are the first target of female genital mutilation (FGM). Girls as young as 1 year old. Girls violated in the name of culture, for the sake of control over their bodies and sexuality. Millions of girls who are subjected to this human rights violation and abuse, hidden behind a veil called ‘tradition.’  

Children like Mercy and Agnes, sisters who were 11 and 10 when they found out they were about to be cut. They knew what was coming: the female genital mutilation ceremony was planned in Ngoilale, Narok County, Kenya. Mercy and Agnes wanted to escape, but that wasn’t an option: what could two little girls do on their own? So, they decided to pretend to ‘play along’ and even go through some of the rite of passage rituals in the days preceding the FGM part of the ceremony.

But that day came: that morning, Mercy and Agnes were to be mutilated.

They ran.

They found shelter at their local pastor’s home, then with the local chief, who brought them to the Tasaru Ntomonok Initiative (TNI) Rescue Center.

Six years later, on 4 December 2016, the girls finally hugged their families again. Agnes Pareiyio, founder of TNI, accompanied them to reunite with their family and community members along with law enforcement agents and officers from the government Children’s Department from Narok County.

The final step of a long and successful reconciliation journey.

Mercy and Agnes are part of the Maasai community. In this society, when girls are forced to undergo FGM, they are pushed not only by their parents, but also by other members of their family and community. This is why TNI meets with parents, relatives, and the society, backed up by elders and provincial administrators. Families have to accept their daughters’ decisions, agreeing not to subject them to FGM or early marriage, and to allow them to continue their education. TNI also holds Alternative Rites of Passage (ARP), so that girls can become full members of their community - without the cut. 

Several meetings - where parents and relatives are also educated on the health complications of FGM and on Kenya’s anti-FGM law - eventually lead to a reconciliation ceremony, after which the girls are reintroduced into their community. They continue to be monitored by area chiefs and TNI pays regular visits to assess their progress both at home and in school. The girls are also expected to write letters to TNI to keep the organization updated and inform them if they feel threatened with FGM or early marriage.

The Tasaru Ntomonok Initiative, which has been working with Equality Now for many years, brings together families, teachers, police, doctors, local governments and community leaders to educate and provide training to deter FGM in Maasai communities, and to provide safe havens for girls. We support their efforts to build strong community-based support to end female genital mutilation.

**  Mass mutilations typically occur in when schools are closed for the holidays.

Photo Credits: 
Alessandra Perotti