“Koko,” I said to my only surviving grandmother, “do you think we should stop circumcising girls?”
She said, “NO! Girls should be circumcised!”
She then kept quiet as if deciding whether or not to get vivid with me, a step-grandson and progeny of a lady she has fond memories with.
“In the past, when we were girls, we behaved like girls. We greeted our fathers well, we knew when we should be in the house and when not to. Today, girls pass you as if you do not exist, and if you protest, they bow their heads and take off hardly before your hand lands on their head.” “Today, girls do not have respect!” She continued. “You cannot differentiate between a girl and a woman… they wear trousers like men and cannot wait for their fathers to hand them out in marriage…
Watch a part of her edited interview, on values and what she would change…
My grandmother never mentioned anything medical, anything to do with childbirth, education or any other new-day reasons why FGM shouldn’t be carried out… because THAT IS HOW SHE SEES IT!
Truly, things have changed, and the people who identify with the shift are the elderly. They have seen and lived the life that, to them, is PARADISO. “Sidai opa Enkop oleng'”(life was good then) grandma said to me, nostalgically. For her, the way of doing things was perfect. She would not change a thing!
This was a while ago. I recently reflected on that conversation, casting my cares on, “what if grandma changed her mind?” Is it possible… to cast some balance, between important intangible cultural heritage and bits that should be discarded?
Can we make a difference by choosing how to engage?
Below is a Maasai radio feature I did back in 2014. (English transcriptions below the audio file)
RADIO NEWS FEATURE
DURATION: 4 MINUTES 12 SECONDS
PRODUCER: JEREMIAH KIPAINOI
ON AIR TIME: 24TH OCTOBER 2014, 1300 HRS
SFX: Women wailing
I am in a small village in Narok County. These women are mourning a child lost through girl circumcision.
Many young girls have run away from their homes due to this practice. This is a Church in Narok Town. It’s here where I meet girls who deserted their homes while running away from female genital mutilation and early marriage. They are aged between seven and fifteen years.
I came here last year. What happened is that I escaped from home; then I was brought to this place called Osotua.
I ran away because the people at home wanted to circumcise then marry me off… and I was still young. I decided to seek refuge in this place. I got help and now studying well.
What class are you in?
I’m now in class six.
My name is Beatrice, and I made a decision not to get circumcised, because we were taught in school and in Church, that it is not good to undergo that practice, so I decided to run away. I am now in class seven.
Some children have decided to join in the war against Female genital mutilation (FGM). I am in Naiikarra boarding primary school at an area known as Naaikarra in Narok County. The headmaster, Mr. Oloontubu, displays trophies won by the school. Among them are trophies won from the Drama festivals.
SFX: Pupils singing Maasai traditional songs.
These pupils have competed to the National drama Festivals, fighting early marriages and FGM.
The war on FGM is not only fought by the children. This lady is an ex-circumciser. She is in her late sixties.
Circumcising a girl is easy yet very difficult. There are those who insist on circumcising their girls in their houses because it is illegal. If only they can listen to me, and they stop it, if only they listen to us, we shall speak to them urging to shun the practice and we shall do it with love. Even if another family refuses to shun the practice, speak to the family you come from, tell them to stop the practice because the era of such practices has come to an end… so that our children can grow well.
MAASAI WOMEN SINGING
I am in the home of a traditional midwife. The old lady has helped many Maasai women in this area give birth for a very long time. I am here to find out if there is a difference between the way a circumcised woman and a non-circumcised one gives birth.
The delivery process of those who are not circumcised is fast. Those who are circumcised have a problem because the child does not come out easily. Let us stop this practice. It is not good.
Parents are happy when they hear their children come home from school. However, not all parents have this opportunity. Many Children continue to run away from their homes evading this cultural practice
This feature is prepared by Jeremiah Kipainoi and is aired in Enkishon E Maa at Shine FM.