UNICEF estimates that 4 million Kenyan girls and women have undergone FGM. This equates to 21% of Kenyan women and girls aged 15 to 49 undergoing the procedure.
In Kenya, cutting happens at various ages, with UNICEF stating that certain ethnic groups practice it after the age of 15; while, in other communities, cutting can occur as early as the age of 9 or 10.
FGM is not prevalent throughout Kenya, but it is more prevalent in rural regions, among lower-income families with less education, and among particular ethnic groups.
Flesh removal is the most common kind of FGM in Kenya, and it is mostly performed by traditional practitioners. FGM cases in Kenya have increased in the last two years as a result of COVID-19.
Though the vast majority Kenyans endorse the abolition of FGM, evidence shows that locally-led initiatives are the greatest bet for success.
In 2023, we witnessed the implementation of one of those initiatives, headed by a reformed cutter who is now at the forefront as a FGM/C community champion in Isiolo county. FGM has been the norm rather than the exception in Isiolo, a region in northern Kenya. FGM is frequently performed on girls as young as 9 or 10 years old in this county.
Nkikapu Lekunto, now 65, is a victim of female genital mutilation and former cutter who has turned her back on the blade, advocating against the terrible practice and encouraging the next generation to do the same.
She has assembled with members of our team and other anti-female genital mutilation advocates at Loruko village in Ol donyiro ward.
The meeting allows our team to collaborate directly with the community on learning about at-risk girls and creating discourse on changing social norms and behaviors that perpetuate harmful practices like this and child marriage.’
Ms. Nkikap, who learnt the technique from her grandmother, says the girls she cut so many years ago are now much older people, but her actions constantly nag at her conscience. Those girls had no say in what happened to their bodies, but they should have. At the time, she saw the practice as a necessary rite of passage.
“Every woman in my generation had been circumcised, and the community accepted it as a sign of womanhood.” “If you didn’t do it, you didn’t belong,” explained Ms. Nkikap, who slashed numerous girls.
If she worked during the day, she was paid in alcohol; if she worked at night, she was paid Ksh. 1500 per girl.
She attributes her reformation to the training and information she received from ALM partner Samburu Women Trust on the harmful effects of female genital mutilation on the health of women and girls.
ALM funds programs in Kenya’s high-risk counties for female genital mutilation, including Narok and Isiolo.
The programs, which are implemented by partners, include discussions, psychosocial support, and other livelihood opportunities for those involved in the practice.