The Terrible December
Whenever it is a year divisible by two drums of trouble resound over Kurya villages, all over Mara region. It is a result of a strongly held belief that such years are blessed, or in contrapositive that years with odd numbers are not blessed. The implication of this belief is that if girls are cut in an even year then there are going to be less deaths, if any; and the whole process is going to be safer (better than otherwise). So one can intelligently guess how it has been for girls in those communities for years 2010, 2012 and 2014, as well as decades before.
The preferred time for the sinister cutting ritual is December. Like other Decembers of years divisible by two the December of 2014 was no exception, only that not all partisans were lucky as the timing would suggest. CCT in collaboration with enlightened community members and other stakeholders have waged a fierce battle against the ritual in order to rescue innocent girls who are either lured or dragged into it only to find vanity and pain.
With prior knowledge the happenings of December 2014 did not unveil as a surprise to CCT. Instead there was a good level of preparation for both preventing and mitigating female genital mutilation as it may unroll. As preventive measures school children are sensitized and educated on effects of FGM as well as its legal implications. In these camps boys and girls are helped to see how errors in cultural identity can be amplified into biological and social disaster. The reason kids are prepared is because first they are the future decision makers in the community, so in the long run there will be much less adults who hold onto the ritual as other do nowadays. Secondly girls are primary victims of FGM and therefore educating them influences their ability to resist, dissuade their peers or even parents. There have been cases where boys have successfully stood up for their sisters.
It is not only school children but also the community at large is sensitized and organized through self-help groups, VICOBA. Although VICOBA are in essence for economic purposes, they also provide a platform for anti-FGM campaigns to be integrated and adopted as core values for members. Eventually most of these members end up being champions of change in their neighbourhoods.
Some of the incidences of that year have actually echoed from one village to another as communities continue to be enlightened. There have been cases where ngaribas had to face justice or flee, and numerous cases of sheer resistance. Some of the documented cases include a VICOBA member who did not accept her child to be cut, another is a ngariba who was caught with just cut girls, as well as another ngariba who had to flee.
Case I: “Not to My Daughter”
Rhobi Marko is a member of Kazi na Malengo VICOBA in Kisumwa, Mara Region. One day she received an idea from her husband to take their daughter Maria (16) through the cutting ritual. With her knowledge acquired in VICOBA she utterly opposed her husband’s idea, to the verge of standing a fight with her husband.
In her testimony to CCT’s local field personnel Rhobi claims that “I have rejected these things although my husband is pushing them, but in person I am not ready to listen to his advice, it is so tense in a way we even do not talk at home because of this matter”. Rhobi is happy when she says “My daughter has understood as well and totally unwilling despite persuasion from her cousins.”
Rhobi acknowledges that it is because of her involvement in CCT’s VICOBA that she was educated on FGM and developed courage to stand up for herself and her daughter as well, even before her husband. Rhobi and Maria remain to be a nuisance against her husband’s wish, but they are safe and sound.
Case II: The hand of Justice
In the morning of the 3rd of December 2014 Wankyo Mwikwabe was as famous for her job as her misfortune. After being a well-known ngariba for a period of time her carrier seems to have had an unhappy ending as this woman learnt that the hand of justice is more powerful than hers despite having a résumé of attending more than 500 persons. In an attempt to rescue herself she protested that if “you want me to leave this job, I need a remuneration of 200,000/- shillings per month”. She made the demand with the starkest of faces she could wear.
After being tipped by a community member CCT personnel together with police officers managed to catch her at 5.30 am on 3rd of December 2014. Together with her host Anna Magoigwa they were with 4 cut girls still bleeding and in severe pain.
Police also managed to apprehend parents and guardians of the cut girls together with ngariba Wankyo herself. The culprits were taken to Kinesi Police station in Rorya district and later on the case was filed at Tarime District court for justice to take its toll.
Currently the ngariba and two others have been bailed out while the case is in progress. CCT’s main concern is if justice does not prevail in this case the lesson will not be well communicated to other ngariba’s still in the business.
Case III: The lesser Evil
Lesser evil? Yes lesser evil. Which is better: being caught by the police or running away from your prestigious duty? Since none is good, then none is better than the other, and the choice is but the lesser evil.
Although Msandwe might not have reasoned with those terms but she came to the same conclusion when someone spoiled her mission to cut 17 girls in Randa Village, Rorya district. At her old age the last thing she would want is going to court and may be a jail sentence. So when she learnt that she was in for trouble, she could not get rid of the evidence but only she could get away from it. So she ran.
One resident of Randa, Isanchu Mriba (54) brought the elderly ngariba Marwa Nyakeragera from Tarime to her home. The mission was clear: to cut 7 girls of the same family and 10 more from 5 other families. After arrival she was secretly hidden for a whole day inside the house before cutting the 7 girls in the night of the next day, without neighbours noticing. The seven cut girls were named Neema, Eliza, Mriba and Sarah. Others are Rhobi, Magreth, and Wesiko. All seven are standard six pupils at Randa and Sokoraboro primary schools.
After the incidence, it leaked to neighbours and eventually to CCT that girls of a specified family have undergone genital mutilation. CCT in collaboration with area champion reported the case to police at Shirati and asked for police to intervene.
While information was passed from one node to another the host family learnt that their secret was no more, and decided to take the elderly ngariba back to Tarime in the midnight using motorcycle.
When police arrived in the morning they stated that it is difficult for them to file the case in court because the alleged culprit had escaped.
However there remained an atmosphere of victory as 10 other girls in the list were not cut, and the ngariba had shamefully ran away.
With high confidence CCT believes that these even years will not continue to be lucky to perpetrators of the heinous act of FGM. More work with love and passion to these communities will yield bountiful. The methodology will continue to be building capacity of communities to fight this war for themselves, with emphasis on good relationships and sustainability of the program. The battle for 2014 is over but the war is not yet won.