For more than 15 years, Regina was a renowned traditional female circumciser in Kenya.
“To gain the confidence of my community members, I had to start with my own daughters,” she said. “If anything were to go wrong, I would have myself to blame. Luckily, they all healed and this gave me the right to begin the practice.
“However, I quit after my friend attended a training session organized by Plan International to introduce alternative rites of passage for girls and embrace girls’ education. She encouraged me to stop practicing [Female Genital Mutilation]. I no longer support FGM.”
Plan International Kenya, through its project, “Obligation to Protect: Agents of Change Unite against FGM,” has seen great success where Regina lives. Regina demonstrates that with knowledge, one is able to make informed choices.
Since it began in 2014 and after consistently working with community members, the project now has more than 260 training officers and 114 paralegals at village level who act as information contacts for the community. They disseminate and inform members of the community on the need to end FGM.
These activities have led to many traditional female circumcisers shunning the practice and engaging in alternative livelihoods. Like Regina, before denouncing the practice, many traditional female circumcisers used the practice as a source of income.
“To circumcise one girl, a family would pay me 1000 Kenyan shillings (10 USD),” she said. “If the family could not afford this, they would give me a goat. During the high seasons such as August and December when schools are on holiday, I would earn more than 20,000 Kenyan shillings (200 USD) per season. This was [in addition to] the goats from the families that did not have cash.”
As it seeks to change the attitudes of FGM practitioners, Plan International is helping the reformed circumcisers find alternative sources of income.
The Gatumi Self-Help Group comprises 40 women who once encouraged the practice of FGM or worked as excisors. The group members have been taught basketry and beadwork and have learned how to add value to their products by taking into consideration customer tastes and preferences. They are now using these skills to improve the quality of their products and increase their revenue.