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OUR TIME IS NOW - OUR RIGHTS OUR FUTURE! As the theme for #IDG2022 highlights, it is very clear that the time to accelerate actions geared towards supporting the girl is now. The need to ensure that her rights are protected and her dignity is respected is dire. This year marks the 10th Anniversary of the International Day of the Girl Child. Well, we must acknowledge and commend the efforts that have been there in addressing the challenges faced by a girl. However, some of these challenges still persist and therefore, hinders the girl from achieving her goals and aspirations. From FGM, early marriages, limited access to education, unequal access to education, Gender-Based Violence, early pregnancies among others, a girl, in a remote area somewhere, is not able to make progress. These have been worsened by the ripple effects of COVID-19 and Climate Change, especially in African countries.

As Spread Truth Africa, the FGM pillar was informed by the prevalence of the practice in some parts of the country. In Kenya, there are 22 areas marked as the FGM hotspot zones. It goes without saying that Female Genital Mutilation is a violation against a girl's body and her rights. As per the culture in some communities, for long, FGM has been a right of passage for girls into becoming women. Culture is by all means beautiful but some of the retrogressive vices deeply entrenched should be done away with. So many organizations and government agencies have stepped up to address the practice and how to best eliminate it. As part of our interventions, we came up with a FGM Psycho-social Curriculum that continues to address the emotional and psychological effects of FGM.

Recently, we have trained 200 girls using the curriculum at Enyuaata E Maa Development Organization in Narok. This formed the 4th cohort after Kajiado, Baringo and Elgeiyo Marakwet.

There, we met beautiful girls full of life, energized and with so much potential, should they access the right opportunities without obstacles. In our stay there, it became very apparent that among some pastoralist communities, FGM, early marriage and teenage pregnancies are highly inter-connected. This has definitely informed high levels of school drop outs among girls. Poverty and drought due to climate change (as aforementioned) highly contributes to increasing FGM prevalence in these communities currently.

Listening to some of their stories there, you realize that FGM is still happening and affecting girls in a big way. It was heartbreaking as some shared their story; how they were forcefully held at night and underwent FGM without their consent, the pain, their healing journey, the bitterness and the hope for a better tomorrow regardless of what they have gone through.

The National Youth Council (NYC) led by the Ag CEO, Ms Margaret Kiogora and her team, joined us for a Kikao/Sawazisha Gumzo with the girls spearheaded by Ms Wairimu Waweru. In the fight to #EndFGM, partnerships are key to enhance efficiency in reaching the grassroot levels. We are glad that alongside NYC and other partners, we continue to reach the girls in different areas.

As we mark the #InternationalDayofTheGirlChild2022, we are calling upon individuals, organizations and government organizations working in the FGM space to continue raising and spreading awareness on these issues that are very central to girls. To ensure that her future is protected, we must consolidate our efforts while united in our purpose, to make sure that we speak and stand for HER. Without forgetting, the men form an integral part of this journey. We appreciate all those who have chosen to be bold and are fighting for her rights. We envision a world where girls will live freely, without fear of anything whatsoever and together, we can achieve this.

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