The first phase of the ‘Mobilising men to campaign against FGM’ came to its completion in July this year. This two-year project, funded by Comic Relief and The World Bank, is a joint initiative by FORWARD and PATH Kenya, to identify the need to include men in the campaign to stop Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). In Kenya, over 50 percent of women have undergone the practice of FGM. Most of the communities practising FGM are patriarchal, thereby men’s involvement in the campaign becomes pertinent.
Phase 1 involved conducting research to determine the knowledge, attitudes and roles of men and boys in the districts of Gucha and Tharaka Nithi regarding FGM, and to determine ways of mobilising them to campaign against the practice. Participatory qualitative research methodologies (using focus group discussions and in-depth interviews) were conducted in the two districts. Some of the conclusions highlighted the gender-based controls and restrictions faced by women and girls, the strong cultural and traditional binding and socially determined rationale for continuing the practise. It revealed that people have heard about the harm caused by FGM but are not convinced, as the information they have is scant and family pressure often prevails to continue the practise. The research revealed how men were key decision-makers at home and in the community, and that they can influence the continuation or discontinuation of the practice.
The first report then goes on to make recommendations for action, in view of this research. Phase II of the project is currently taking place, and is scheduled to finish in June next year. Some of the activities will include such things as community organisation, recruitment of boys and men into groups, conducting communication for change training, training peer educators, recruiting and training theatre groups, and beginning to integrate men’s activities into existing FGM activities.