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On 23rd November Cath joined the grassroots team in Kenya to begin the annual Alternative Rites of Passage (ARP) ceremonies for 2016.

Since then, she and the team have been hard at work across the region, bringing ARP to new areas, and of course strengthening their existing use. So far the they have been to

TAKAYWA

An Outreach Sensitisation Programme was begun here on 28th November. This is a very remote village, with local estimates of FGM prevalence close to 100%. Promisingly, Beyond FGM and Kepsteno Rotwo had a great reception despite the prevalence of cutting here. Let’s hope such good reactions will provide a strong base for ARP in the future.

Takaywa girl

 

This girl in Takaywa captures the spirit of ‘Abandon the Knife’, speaking out to her community as a role model. She has never been cut and is determined to keep it that way.

SAMICH, CHERANGANI HILLS

This is another very rural village, high up in the mountains. Samich is playing host to the team this week. They are hoping that around 150 girls will be able to participate in the ARP. Best of luck for another fantastic week of workshops with plenty of singing and dancing! They are so vital in deepening community acceptance of ARP, empowering women and girls to reject FGM.

Beyond FGM and the Kepsteno Rotwo team will continue to travel region around Pokot over the next couple of weeks.

Keep checking this page for the latest updates!

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We are so proud to announce that the Queens Young Leaders Award 2017 has recognised our very own Project Manager and Kepsteno Rotwo Coordinator, Domtila!

This prestigious programme “discovers, celebrates and supports exceptional young people from across the Commonwealth, leaving a lasting legacy for Her Majesty the Queen.”

Congratulations Domtila, your hard work and dedication to delivering Alternative Rites of Passage truly deserves this appreciation and respect.

To find out more Domtila’s fantastic achievement, visit https://www.queensyoungleaders.com then go to “Winners 2017″ and click on Kenya.

UPDATE: Domtila will come to London to collect her award in June!

WP_QYL_Logo

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Thank you Cath for your warm welcome, it is great to be able to contribute to this amazing team at Beyond FGM.

Some of you may have noticed that the Guardian documentary “Abandon the Knife” isn’t quite working on the home page. So here is a re-posted link to the film, which I highly recommend watching as an insight into the work done by Kepsteno Rotwo (Abandon the Knife) who are supported by Cath and the team at Beyond FGM.

It is all too easy to forget the constant effort it takes to achieve real change when we are presented with fantastic results that the Alternative Rite of Passage Ceremonies have produced. Watching this film is a reminder of the daily struggles of Nancy and Gertrude, and girls like them in Pokot, and all around the world. It also shows that community support, be it for Nancy’s strength and natural leadership, or Gertrude’s quiet but steadfast resistance, can make all the difference in creating collective acceptance of their freedom to be in charge of their own lives.

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Great news that we have another new member to our team, Anna, who has offered vital assistance with admin.

I would like to officially welcome Anna on board and say how extremely grateful we are to her for this much needed support and practical help.  I am a firm believer in team work and we all have a part to play in ending FGM.

There is a wonderful African proverb:  “If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together”.

I will leave it to Anna to introduce herself as she begins posting!

 

Thanks a million Anna!

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Off to Kenya next week for our annual Alternative Rite of Passage Ceremony (ARP).

Apologies for lack of news updates on website, too much reliance on Facebook and multiple other excuses!!!!

Our group on the ground in Pokot are busy preparing for this year’s main activity, the Alternative Rite of Passage ceremony (ARP).

We are also planning to visit several remote villages to conduct sensitisation/awareness raising around issues of FGM.

We are very happy to have a new member on board, Mr. Bernard Kabete. Bernard is an amazing teacher, facilitator and all round brilliant communicator. He is a Pokot by tribe which means he is a “local” and therefore is fluent in Pokot language. Vital in terms of bringing the anti FGM message to remote communities whose only language is their mother tongue, Pokot.

Please visit our Facebook page to see photos and news of the wonderful Public Abandonment Ceremony held in Ortum on February 6th 2016, World Zero Tolerance to FGM Day. A group of 20 reformed circumcisers  laid down their knives in a symbolic gesture of publicly declaring they will no longer practice female genital mutilation (FGM). The occasion gained much media attention being broadcast on all major Kenyan T.V. channels, plus radio and newspaper coverage.

Meantime we have been busy fund raising with another Coast to Coast cycle ride taking place.  Well done to all those taking part in this challenging event and many thanks to all who contributed. Special thanks to Sarah Leach who organised it all.

 

Work on the proposed Rescue Centre/Safe House is ongoing. I hope to have latest news and pics when I return in New Year along with news of this year’s ARP.

Many thanks for taking time to read this and continued interest and support.

Best wishes, Cath Holland

 

 

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Another successful Alternative Rite of Passage (ARP) ceremony was held in a new village, Nyang’aita in Masol district.

Masol is a remote part of West Pokot bordering Turkana County, a huge desert.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) prevalence in this area is almost 100%.  We at Beyond FGM and Kepsteno Rotwo were the first people ever to visit Masol to talk about FGM. People were genuinely unaware of the negative health consequences of FGM or that it is now illegal in Kenya.

We were warmly welcomed by the community with almost 200 participants in 4 days of seminars and workshops followed by a big public Alternative ceremony for the girls which acknowledges to the community at large that these girls/young women  have now graduated to adult status and will therefore not be always considered a child which carries much stigmatization. Hopefully more girls will attend school in the future but of course there is the issue of school fees. The people of Masol are largely nomadic. They are marginalised and poverty stricken which makes finding school fees a big challenge!

We had a full day of training with the men , including the youth, a full day with the women and 2 days with the girls.

Miraculously after around one week of us being in Nyang’aita a 20 strong committee has been formed to end FGM from within their community!

We shall try to support the community in the coming months by visiting,  offering moral support and enlisting a team to join our Community Based Organisation (CBO), Kepsteno Rotwo meaning abandon the knife.

 

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Sadly due to technical hitches galore and incompetence of yours truly latest photos direct from Pokot have not yet been uploaded onto website……….

BUT……….all is not lost……….

Please please pretty please visit our Facebook page where you can see said photos of foundations being dug and bricks being made for our much needed Rescue Centre/Safe House.

Also on Facebook you can watch a short video clip of one of your rescued girls who gives a heartfelt account of how she ran away from FGM and forced marriage to an old man. The young woman, Milkah,  was rescued by one of our group members in Pokot, Paulina who looked after the two friends for a year before we installed them in a neighbouring Rescue Centre. You can hear Milkah say how desperately she wants to go to school even just to be able to write her own name!

As we reach out to more remote areas we are finding more girls who need somewhere safe to run to escape this torture. This is why we are now fund raising in earnest for our own Rescue Centre.

There is a “Donate” button on this site where you can but a brick for a fiver! Every little helps and we can all play a part in bringing about the end of FGM.

Thanks you, Cath Holland

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Plans are underway to begin building a rescue centre or safe house for all those Pokot girls who are running away from FGM and forced marriage.We have the latest pics from Ortum, West Pokot which show the foundations being being dug and a few bricks already made.

This Thursday evening we are hosting an event in Hackney, London to launch our

“BUY A BRICK” campaign .

If you are unable to attend then please consider buying a brick to support our vital work in rescuing thousands more young Pokot women and girls to escape the horror of genital mutilation (FGM) and early/forced marriage.

To buy a ticket for Thursday please go to https://www.ticketea.com/panel-event-to-debate-how-female-genital-mutilation-fgm-can-be-stopped/

To buy a brick please visit our website www.beyondfgm.co.uk and click on the Buy a Brick logo.

many thanks for support and interest.

N.B. Every little helps and a little goes a long way in Kenya!

 

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Fantastic news! Domtila who is now Project Manager, (Kenya),  completed the Guardian sponsored poster campaign just before Xmas  which she also filmed.

The poster campaign involved an art competition with local school girls who were asked to design a poster depicting their thoughts on FGM . This was part of the Guardian media campaign to end FGM. (See previous post on Guardian/UNFPA global multi media campaign against FGM recently launched by Ban Ki-Moon at UNHQ, Nairobi)  It was hoped that posters with a simple graphic image would reach remote rural areas where marginalised people have no access to T.V., radio or newspapers. Many areas in Pokot county have never had any FGM sensitisation whatsoever and are not aware of the dangers or the illegality of FGM. Sadly some local Chiefs chose to turn a blind eye to the practice so as not to lose popularity.

The Guardian published Domtila’s film on the poster campaign  alongside an article on how Domtila and I became very good friends.

Following publication of Domtila’s film she was  invited to the World Economic Forum at Davos to take part in The Big Debate on women’s and girls human rights including FGM.

Whilst in Davos she met the Director of UNFPA , Geneva , who has invited Domtila to speak at a global conference on FGM in Geneva to mark Feb 6th. International Zero Tolerance to FGM Day. This is such good news and hopefully means that we may at last receive recognition and funding! We are such a small grassroots organisation that it’s very hard to grow and a constant challenge is fund raising.

our 5th Alternative Rite of Passage ceremony last December was another success with around 250 girls taking part in a week of seminars, workshops and training on the negative health consequences of FGM, the illegality of FGM and last but not least their own human rights to bodily integrity, education, freedom to chose their own path in life etc.. The week culminates in a big public ceremony where the girls perform drama, songs and dance.

This year we then took our ceremony on a road show to more remote villages on market day so as to take the anti FGM message to as many people as possible. We were received very well wherever we went especially with the drama and singing. Huge crowds gathered round almost immediately the performances began.

We are now aiming to reach out to the male population specifically. Although we have always tried to include men in our campaign,  because FGM is rather a taboo subject and it is culturally inappropriate to discuss such issues openly in mixed company then it is felt some  men have not yet received the necessary information  to begin the process of change of mindset.

We are hosting a conference to mark World Zero Tolerance to FGM day on Feb.6th in Sigor, a remote village in West Pokot county where FGM practice remains rife. We have invited all the local Chiefs, their Assistants, Elders from every village  and members of the wider community.

This year’s theme for World anti FGM day is “Mobilizing and involving Health Personnel in the fight against FGM”. We hope to have the Health and Culture Ministers attending and addressing the conference as well as young men, both educated and those young men who live a traditional pastoral life whereby they have not received formal education. I shall endeavour to include Domtila’s film in this post where a young so called warrior man speaks on camera about gaining new knowledge about the dangers of FGM. He has promised to speak at our conference!

Hoping for success in posting pictures and video clips from last year’s ceremony and roadshow.

thanks so much for taking time to read this post.

Cath Holland (founder)