In a typical supply/demand situation in a free market, demand commands supply. We have concentrated on cutting the supply of cut girls but ignored the demand… men! In the case of the community that I come from, many girls are handed out for marriage because there are men who want cut girls. How about engaging men on the effects and cut off the demand? Lack of demand, if other factors are left constant, automatically kills the supply.
No person can resist the force of demand and supply on his own… and we can adapt the same concept in the case of fighting FGM.
Now, I understand that placing human beings on a level of farm produce could stir a WW3-like kind of reaction. That is not my intention. I hope to create an understanding and have a sober conversation about it.
Why I’m I even writing?
I have always had an urgument with men, on “who will marry the cut girls if you tell the men not to marry them?” The reactions are always out of this world!
Below are some recent screenshots from social media conversations after youth went online with the hash tag #FGMKilledJelida
“You are paid by NGOs to kill our culture!”
“You know nothing about circumcision!”
“Who are you to tell us what to do when we have practiced it for generations?”
“FGM is too small an issue! Let us concentrate on bigger issues!”
“My mother gave birth to me, and 12 other children! Why is it a problem to you?
…and it goes on and on
However, tangible reason on why to keep practicing FGM is always NIL!
I am a Maa speaker, and, traditionally, the Samburu and Maasai men are usually nowhere near where girls are circumcised. “These days, a girl can even be circumcised in your homestead and you as a man don’t know!” Said an elder in Enkii, Kajiado! The women who sharpen the knives, those who hold the legs and backs of the initiates (since it is seen as a right of passage) never ask men to help. Men even do not have an idea of what is cut out… and will never know the repercussions or complications that arise in the cases of labour, since “nkaitoyiok,” the midwives don’t involve them.
In the Maasai feature (below) I did in 2015, the midwife said that she no longer wants to help girls who are circumcised to give birth.
“It is very difficult!” She said! “I’d rather they go give birth in Narok town!”
Traditionally, girls’ had to be cut to be ready for marriage. It was a man’s affair… because it was in preparation for a man.
Among the Samburu, a girl is often cut and married off on the same day!
“A man could not marry an uncut girl,” said an ex-cutter in Narok county…”I am not very young now,” she said, clearing her blurring eyes. “I don’t see the benefits it gives to a woman. I just remember the pain I underwent during the cut!”
Men play a big role in bringing this practice to an end, but, as Nampaso put it in a recent interview at Citizen TV, communities are often very resistant to change, and it takes time for them to adapt.
Communities that practice FGM are often, if not always, highly patriarchal. If a man says that his daughters will not be cut, the girls will not be cut. We therefore need to engage them, and a wave of Men engaging men to end the vice is bringing change here in Kenya.
I recently joined the founder of #MenEndFGM, a movement against the vice, Tony Mwebia in an observatory mission in Southern Kenya… and we had the conversation below!
Engaging men in ending this vice is critical in finding a lasting solution, not only for FGM, but also other harmful cultural practices that affect these communities.