Safe Kenya – the end of FGM is in sight….

By Milena Rampoldi and Denise Nanni, ProMosaik. In the following our interview with Safe Kenya supporting HIV / AIDS patients, and struggling against FGM. Would like to thank Nick for his answers. An end of FGM in Kenya is in sight, he says, and this makes me happy.   

How was founded Safe Kenya?

I met a Kenyan professor in America who wished to return to his home town of Mombasa to establish a paediatric HIV clinic there. I spent six months in Mombasa and launched SAFE after identifying the woeful lack of public health education. This was two decades into the epidemic and still people did not have the facts. Identifying the best actors in Mombasa we devised a play with a great storyline, and with humour. The impact was immediate, and it was clear that world class performance could change peoples lives. 

What are the main issues that you address?

We started with HIV/AIDS, but are now multi issue. Our last film was about radicalisation of Islamic youth, and we run a big FGM/C abandonment program with the Maasai and the Samburu tribes. We also look at clean water, climate change, and environmental protection.  

What is the current situation related to FGM in Kenya and what strategies do you usa to fight this practice?

Approximately 30 – 40% of Kenyan women suffer FGM. SAFE uses a performance based approach, with Maasai and Samburu songs and stories as an entry point to begin debate. These culturally appropriate, non judgmental interventions allow a discussion to begin from within the culture. All staff come from the areas we work and are passionate about ending the practice in their communities. The performances are followed up with workshops and one on one interventions. In the Loita Hills Maasai community where we work, the rate of FGM has fallen from 100%, to less than 70%. We believe the end of FGM is in sight.

In what ways do you challenge the social norms that cause gender inequality?

We have gender equality in our staffing, helping the SAFE women to become role models in this fearsomely patriarchal society. The promotion of girl child rights, and access to education is crucial. Early marriage is a big problem. Once a girl is married she is expected to bear children, and once pregnant will drop out of school. 

How important is to involve men in this debate?

Essential. It is the men who will make the final decision on FGM. And whatever they may say about this being a ‘woman’s issue’, it is the men who will decide whether to cut their daughter. This decision is often taken lightly with little consideration for the health implications or the suffering involved.  

Please feel free to add anything that you may want to say. I’d be glad to receive a couple of pictures, to be published along with the interview. I will send you the link of the interview as soon as it will be online.