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FGM wrecks lives of hundreds in Kajiado

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Christine Senteu (not her real name) shudders when she recalls what transpired after she completed her KCSE examination in Kajiado.

Senteu, now 24, was 17 years old at the time. She faced the knife at her home in Kenyewa-Poka ward, Kajiado East, as her mother looked on.

“The pain was unbearable. I was tied and placed in front of old women as my private part was disgraced. I could not imagine that my parents could do that to me. I was left with a wound that will never leave my memory for life,” Senteu said.

She is now appealing for Good Samaritans to pay for reconstruction surgery on her private parts. She has visited many hospitals in Nairobi for help but the cost is beyond her reach.

“They damaged my private parts and I now require reconstruction surgery, which I cannot afford. I cannot ask my parents for money because they saw it happen and they never bothered to care,” Senteu says.

The girl is graduating from Kenyatta University College this year with a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture, but is still haunted by her past. She requires Sh150,000 for her surgery, which she cannot afford. She was given the cost at the Aga Khan Hospital, Nairobi.

Kajiado County Commissioner David Kipkemei /KURGAT MARINDANY

Senteu says she is always tormented every time students in the university talk about FGM among Maasai girls. “I really do not want to hear that because of the way it was done on me. I received several cut injuries on my thighs as I attempted to fight off the women holding me down,” she says.

Her worry is she might not get married to any man because of the damage.

“I have never had children and so I do not know if I will have any complication while giving birth to my children,” she says.

AFRAID TO SPEAK OUT

Many other women in Kajiado went through similar torture but feared to talk to the Star, for fear of intimidation from their husbands and public rebuke.

Some of them told us they undergo a lot of stress whenever they are giving birth or when having intercourse. Others are suffering from fistula complication and even fear to tell their story for fear of public rebuke.

Kajiado county commissioner, David Kipkemei has been a leading campaigner against FGM and has occasionally been a target of attacks by elders, who insist on the practice.

Kipkemei has used his office and even suspended some chiefs suspected to have aided young girls to undergo FGM and later be married.

“As I have always said, I will stand firm against these injurious practices that have been overtaken by time. We want our young girls to get peace of mind so they can concentrate on their education in school,” Kipkemei said.

The commissioner has rescued many girls from early marriage. For instance, late last year in Bissil, Kajiado Central subcounty, Kipkemei rescued a 13-year-old girl after he received information that the Class 8 pupil in Mailua Primary School may not sit her KCPE exam.

The girl managed to sit the exam and was later taken to a children’s home in Kajiado town.

MUTILATED ABROAD

But as Kipkemei tries to stamp out FGM and early marriages, a new scheme has been hatched by some communities living along the border.

Mashuuru deputy county commissioner Stephen Nyakundi told the Star he has been tipped that young girls are smuggled across to Tanzania, where they are circumcised and returned after they have healed.

“We are monitoring them very closely. Let them know we are watching them. Our chiefs have clear instructions to monitor cross-border movements on a daily basis,” Nyakundi said.

The DCC said the fight against FGM requires goodwill from the community and all other stakeholders.

But former KQ CEO Titus Naikuni has a different view on FGM and is appealing to the government not to use force.

“If you force for this thing to end, you might not get good results but a rebellion of some sort. It should be left to die a natural death,” he said.

“Nobody forced the Maasai to stop piercing their ears but the practice is now dying very fast.”

FGM survivor Namelokai Sein, who is currently in the US. /KURGAT MARINDANY

Namelokai Sein, an FGM survivor in Narok, and now the founder and CEO of Girls Safe Foundation, underwent circumcision at the age of 13.

“When I was circumcised, I was 13 years old. It started as a ceremony and I was bought new clothes and shoes. It was like a celebration and my two sisters and I were the centre of attention,” says Sein, who has now gone global in her fight against injustices on girls.

LASTING DAMAGE

Sein, talking to the Star from the US, said the equipment they used on her was handmade and was a sharp, curved knife that was not sterilised. She says she was not given any anesthetic before they cut her clitoris. Her wound was treated with herbs, salt and water.

“I bled a lot and was in great pain. I was horribly frightened and cried until I passed out. The only other thing I remember before passing out was begging my mum to have the women spare my younger sisters, due to the pain I suffered and never wanted to see my sisters go through it,” Sein said on the phone.

When she woke up from unconsciousness, her sisters were in the same room with her and were also in great pain.

“I came to the US with my husband and about the same time suffered a great deal of pain during my menstrual and urinary tract infection, so I went to the hospital,” she said.

She told the Star it turned out that when they carried out the cut on her, her private parts were damaged.

Doctors in the US recommended reconstruction surgery but she was scared and did not want to experience the pain again.

“While I was giving birth my doctor had to cut me again and stitch it due to the risk of an un-repairable tear that was caused by FGM,” Sein said.

She said many immigrant minority families in the US take girls to their country of origin to have FGM carried out. The secret event is treated as a family summer vacation; they see family and the countryside and are then circumcised.

Sein says when the families return to the US, they make sure their girls will never talk about it for fear of state action.

The US government, she says, does not condone such outdated practices on its citizens, and if it is found out, the government will take the girl away from her family, and she will lose all she has in the US, Including family.



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