6 March 2018

Alternative Rites of Passage

Guest Blog by the Pastoralist Child Foundation.

Since 2013, Pastoralist Child Foundation’s (PCF) Alternative Rites of Passage (ARP) have been instrumental in lowering the rate of FGM in Samburu, Kenya. We have managed to decrease the former rate of 96% in East Samburu Ward down to 80%. Our replacement for “the cut” is through education and celebrations for groups of 60 girls during their school holidays in April, August, and December. PCF extends invitations to girls ages 8-17 in primary and secondary schools. The parent(s)/guardian(s) are informed of the ARP curriculum and our work to accelerate the abandonment of FGM, and give a permission slip for the child’s participation.

The girls attend classes, eat, sleep and play together for 4 days. Some arrive a little shy or hesitant at first, but by the second day they’ve made friends, and when it’s time to say goodbye there could be tears. The girls are amazing!! I see their positive energy, intelligence, thirst for knowledge, poise, pride, and determination to achieve their dreams. They want to be teachers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, engineers, broadcasters, pilots, etc. They know they can achieve their dreams if they take education seriously. I see so much hope in their eyes! They’re empowered!

The ARP curriculum is rigorous. The girls are given pens and notebooks and must take notes at every lesson. We advise them to share their notes with at least 10 people when they return to their villages.

The curriculum consists of the following main topics addressed in the ARP’s:

  • Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) – rite of passage to womanhood; origin; myths/misconceptions; harmful physical, psychological and emotional consequences; types performed; discrimination based on sex; illegal; gender-based violence; human rights violation; often a precursor for forced early marriage;no benefits; Kenya FGM Hotline reporting phone number given to girls.
  • Forced Early Marriage – interconnection with FGM; illegal; human rights violation; promotes gender inequality; various initiatives aimed to empower young girlson the associated risks; negatively impacts girls’ education and economic development.
  • Sexual & Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) – menstruation;female anatomy.
  • Teen Pregnancy – prevention; higher risk of maternal/infant mortality; higher risk of fistula; increased risk of delivering pre-term or having a low birth weight baby.
  • HIV/AIDS and STD’s – transmission;prevention;myths/misconceptions; stigma and discrimination.
  • Democracy and Child Rights - right to life, education, worship, ownership, highest attainable standards of health, justice; facts and figures on child protection laws in Kenya.
  • Self-awareness & Self-confidence – personality, strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation, and emotions.
  • The importance of formal education –improved socio-economic growth; path to university, technical or vocational school; path to achieving your dreams; educated girls are healthier, delay marriage and have fewer children; higher literacy rate; increased participation in community activities and political process/discussions; decreasedsexual and domestic violence; fundamental to achieving gender equality.

If you’re considering adding Alternative Rites of Passage to your organization’s activities, you’re thinking wisely and correctly. We believe it’s the best, safest, and most positive way to educate girls about FGM to advance its abandonment by the year 2030.