It’s a big win for the Maasai community girls as a section of famous Female Genital Mutilation women cutters in Kajiado County reformed and declared they will champion against the vice.
The groups of more than 10 elderly women aged above 60 years have cut more than 30, 000 girls in the community and across borders for the past 30 years they have done the practice.
Tulasha Toirai, Eva Sanoe, Sanasayo Salaash and Titey Ndisha are some of the reformed cutters who revealed to have cut over 5 girls a day.
Speaking to K24 Digital in Enkinye village, Kajiado Central sub-county at Il'laramatak Community Concerns, a non-governmental organization that champions for the rights of girls and end of FGM, in Kajiado County, the women said they now champion for the rights of Maasai girls and STOP to Mutilation to enable their girls to go to school.
Tulasha Toirai, 67, and a mother of 7 girls was the chief leader in advocating for FGM where she would also train other women how to circumcise, in a move to ensure their tradition was adhered to.
Toirai has learnt the practice was retrogressive and together with our peers they engage in making beautiful Maasai doormats, beads, necklaces and also selling of milk as an alternative to earn a living.
“I have cut more than 50 girls and would charge between 1,500 and 2,000 Kenya shillings for each one I circumcise. School holidays was the best for me because I would cut at least five girls each day,” explained Toirai
She says the girls would be brought to her hut or would visit their manyattas (homes) and mutilate them on demand.
Like fellow reformed cutters, Mrs Tulasha now acknowledges that the practice has been a major setback in their girls' education as most were married out immediately after circumcision.
"Once the girl underwent FGM, she was considered a big woman ready for marriage at the expense of formal education. In the Maasai community, we have many teen mothers who were married off after undergoing FGM. We are now advocating for Maasai girls' rights," she said.
“We have educated our boys that there is no difference between a circumcised girl and the uncut. We no longer cut them”, she added.
Eva Sanoe, also a transformed cutter said she cut over 50 girls for Ksh 1,500 each even though she wasn’t aware that FGM could potentially ruin the lives of the girls.
“We cut our girls without knowing the dangers of the vice but now that the government has made it illegal, we had to stop. Our girls are now in school learning”, said Sanoe.
Today, these born again anti-FGM champions spend most of their time in the community reaching out to women in different villages to root for an anti-FGM-free society.
In 2019 Kajiado created a robust policy made to end FGM from the grass root.
The policy firmly hanged on the principles of inclusivity, non-discrimination and gender equality, and provides the legal framework for fast-tracking and eradication of FGM in the county starting from the village level.
According to Former national anti-FGM board member and ICC founder, Agnes Leina said their war against the practice was bearing fruits in the region.
Leina said they started a community dialogue to educating and sensitizing the women to stop the cut and so far there has been noticeable progress.
“FGM is not easy to eradicate, it’s not a disease like polio to eradicate in a day and that’s why we decided to do a community dialogue so that these cutters may understand the dangers without being forced what FGM does to our girls. It takes a process,” said Leina.
She said FGM cases have gone down significantly since they embarked on advocating for the end of FGM, the key being the transformation of the notorious cutters who once went to the streets to demonstrate against governments’ directive to stop Female Genital Mutilation.
“We use the slogan "CUT THE GARMENT, NOT THE GIRLS" to champion for the Anti-FGM campaign.” We are also going to start “SELL THE MILK NOT THE GIRL”, to ensure our girls are not sold for wealth.” said Leina
The Anti-FGM crusader cautioned their community against identifying girls as a source of income through bride price.
"We began the journey of reaching out to traditional circumcisers in 2016 during the Enkorica declaration. Notorious "cutters" have reformed, boosting the war against FGM. We have partnered with several NGOs and the government to free our girls from the shackles of FGM," Ms Leina said.
Joseph Masago Inkinyie sub-location Assistant Chief said reforming of the cutters in the region has helped drop the cases of FGM and would help in achieving the 2022 presidential directive to end FGM.
“Since the cutters reformed, they started selling milk and through the empowerment of Ilaramatak, they were able to start their own business of making doormats and necklaces which gives them income”, said Masago.
He called upon other cutters who are not reformed yet to follow suit and help their girls achieve their rights by taking them to school.
Equality Now’s Programme Associate Carol Lagat says a multi-sectorial approach is the key to ending FGM.
“Multi-sectorial approach is the best way of working because it facilitates the collaboration of efforts and resources of stakeholders in the laws and strengthens research into harmful practices. This means strengthened advocacy against FGM and improved implementation of programs”, said Lagat.
She said the reformed cutters can be of big use to society due to the power position they hold and can help campaign against FGM.