In Kenya, early marriage and genital cutting are long-established traditions in many tribes. These practices are rooted in what communities believe in: a girl’s purity, cleanliness, bride-price. Only in recent years are questions raised about health impacts, risks to the girl’s body from intercourse and childbirth, and the broader social implications of girls’ stunted education and economic empowerment. To many, these concerns sound foreign. How can we help communities see things differently?
After graduating from Kenyatta University, I focused on health and human rights, and become a program coordinator at AMREF, the largest health NGO in Africa. My work deals with educating communities, and using education and community engagement as tools to stop the practices of female genital mutilation and of child marriage.
Attitudes don’t change easily. When you’re on the outside, it’s easy to look at a tradition and say “That’s backwards!” But within your own culture and traditions, you hardly notice what you are yourself choosing, and what your community is choosing for you. The lines blur. So the real question is, how can we help communities become more self-conscious about the traditions they are practicing?