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Narok County remains to be one of the 22 FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) hotspot zones in Kenya. Equally, there is still a high prevalence of teenage pregnancy despite a considerable decline in the rate. There is a great correlation when it comes to FGM, teenage pregnancies and early child marriages. In the community, once a girl undergoes FGM, she is considered ready for marriage. Therefore, the advocacy to end FGM is very crucial in addressing early child marriages and ultimately, teenage pregnancies. There are definitely other factors, aside FGM, that influence teenage pregnancies but it is critically important to note the impact of FGM as one of the causal factors.

To understand that FGM is a practice that is deeply entrenched in the community’s culture is very paramount in the advocacy to end FGM. There have been so many approaches and efforts to address the retrogressive practice and it is important to note the steps that have been made to this end. In a recent visit to Narok County for the Alternative Rites of Passage (ARPs) training and field study, we see the enhanced advocacy approaches in addressing FGM.

Organized by Tareto Africa Organization, the training brought together delegates from Spread Truth Africa, The National Association of Women’s Organizations in Uganda (NAWOU) and Harambe Humanitarian. As part of the training, was to have the organizations share and present on the different approaches and programs they conduct on advocacy to end FGM. Spread Truth Africa highlighted the impact of the FGM Psychosocial Support Curriculum Training. The main focus thereafter was to keenly delve into the discussion on the ARPs. ARPs are very crucially in the advocacy to end FGM as they offer alternatives to what a community believes to be culturally important.

As part of the field study, we visited Nkoilale Primary School. Just like many other schools in Narok, Nkoilale also faces the challenge of teenage pregnancies, early child marriages and the risk of FGM among the female students. The purpose of the visit was to benchmark on the Trees for Girls (T4G) Project by Tareto Africa as an alternative right of passage. T4G engages the girls through tree planting, mentorship and Sexual Reproductive Health training that culminates in a festival to mark the girls’ graduation. The program also offers scholarships in a bid to keep more girls in school and away from the risk of FGM and early child marriages.

The final visit was at the Maa Trust which operates within the Maasai Mara conservancy. The Trust works on Child Protection and girls/women empowerment among other related programs. Equally, the purpose was also to learn of the different ARPs programs they carry within the community. Their approach is laser focused on an intergenerational dialogue between the girls and the parents, local leaders and cultural leaders. The dialogue, which is also a training, takes 2-3 months after which the girls graduate and the parents attend the graduation as a good will sign that the girls will not be exposed to FGM. During the graduation, the girls wear traditional attires (those that they would otherwise wear after being circumcised) to symbolize the cultural bit of it. The Trust also engages the girls in schools through the Mara Champions Clubs.

The training and the field study particularly put to light the need for continued collaborations among different stakeholders and the importance of knowledge sharing among different organizations advocating against FGM.

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