An intricate web of illegal Female Genital Mutilation practices involving Kenyan girls being secretly shipped into neighbouring Tanzania for circumcision has been unearthed.
Reports show that families looking to marry off their teenage girls sneak them to Tanzania using boda bodas during the wee hours of the morning.
They are then driven for around five hours from Oloitoktok to Moshi through Tarakea into Arusha which is about 170 kilometres before undergoing the cut.
The girls are later taken to a hideout in relatives' homes for the healing process before returning back home.
Speaking to K24 Digital, OLoitoktok Senior Chief Isaiah Samana noted that cross border FGM has been a challenge in Kajiado over the last few years since the Kenyan government passed punitive laws to curb the heinous act.
“The girls are still being subjected to FGM but the biggest challenge is finding out where the cut is undertaken as it is done very secretly but once we find out we ensure the suspects are arrested and taken to court”, he confirmed.
“Most of Maasai from Kajiado have relatives across the border so they use it as an excuse to go and circumcise the girls," he added.
One survivor identified as Emilia,16, detailed how her father tricked her into undergoing the cut back in 2018.
Emilia, a class eight pupil narrated that in 2018 at the age of 13, her father tricked her to visit relatives in Arusha without knowing that she was being taken for the cut.
"My father had planned for me to visit my relatives in Tanzania however upon arrival, I underwent the cut and was forced to stay there until I recovered. I did not go to the hospital. I was also threatened not to tell anyone back in Kenya," she said in tears.
Her circumcision was to be followed by an early marriage which didn’t take place thanks to the authorities who were swift to arrest the father and put her into a rescue centre.
The father was prosecuted and detained for one month in Loitoktok prison but later transferred to home arrest which he is still serving.
Another survivor identified as Simaloi,17, from Rombo, was rescued by Loitotok police officers hours before her planned trip to Tanzania by her uncles.
The class 8 pupil, said her mother (widow), disclosed to her about the planned trip and together with her big sister helped her escape.
“After my father's death, my uncles took over our home and inheritance forcing us to drop out of school. They then planned a trip for me and my sister to undergo the cut in Tanzania but my mum disclosed the information to us and organised how we could escape through the chief and the plan was successful," Simaloi noted.
Efforts to try and fight the vice saw Nyumba Kumi and Community Policing members led by Lekarokia Ole Nang’oro form a group of 52 members including police officers from Tanzania dubbed 'Nashivai'.
These are tasked with daily door-to-door moves around hospitals and homesteads in both countries for inspection.
The Nyumba Kumi chairman in Kajiado County said they are also collaborating with teachers to monitor the absenteeism of their girls.
Speaking to K24 Digital, Tarakea OCS, in Tanzania Inspector Paul Kimasa, said they have also collaborated with the Kenyan security team in their efforts to eradicate cross border FGM.
He said the act is not only harmful but also illegal to girls and women and the Tanzanian government.
“We as police officers from Tanzania do not agree with any kind of FGM or teenage marriages because we term it as a crime,” he said.
The director of Hope Beyond Foundation and an Anti-FGM campaigner Dorcas Parit said the collaboration of the two authorities has reduced cross border FGM.
According to Parit, more than 20 girls were cut every month during the Covid-19 period in 2020 when schools were closed.
The foundation now hosts over 150 girls who were either rescued from teenage marriage or FGM from Kajiado County.
According to the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey in 2014, 21% of women and girls aged between 15 and 49 years in Kenya have undergone FGM.
Despite the national decline in the prevalence of FGM, it is still higher within communities such as the Somali (94%), Samburu (86%), Kisii (84%) and Maasai (78%).
The government of Tanzania prohibits the practice of FGM under its Sexual Offences Special Provision Act 1998.