At least 80 girls from Kuria West sub-county in Migori are yet to report back to school after fleeing their parents’ homes over fears of being subjected to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
The girls sought refuge at Taranganya Girls’ Secondary as the season of circumcision among the Kuria community sets in, disrupting learning activities in the region.
Girls aged between nine and 13 years old are being targeted for the repugnant cultural practice. The government has launched a crackdown on those promoting it.
*Teresia (not her real name) relocated to the rescue camp on Monday, the day schools partially reopened after she was informed by her parents that she would be facing the circumciser’s knife.
“My aunt told me of the plans and helped me escape to Kehancha police station after she learned that I was to undergo circumcision,” the 14-year-old girl said.
She is, however, worried that her education might come to an abrupt end after her father apparently disowned her for refusing to undergo the cut.
“I am worried that my parents no longer want to associate with me if I do not take accept to take the cut. I am preparing to sit the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exam but if I go home, I will be subjected to circumcision,” she said.
Of the 80 girls at the rescue centre, 20 are Standard Eight pupils while six are in Grade Four.
Mrs Suzanne Matinde, a programmes coordinator at GESOSE, a non-profit organisation currently protecting the girls, said parents had committed to have their children back promising not to subject them to the agonising ritual.
“We are coordinating with the Children’s department to have the girls send back to their homes. But we want to ensure there is an agreement in place with the parents and our teams to monitor and ensure the girls are safely back in school to continue with learning,” said Mrs Matinde.
Kuria West Children’s officer Mr John Omondi said the girls in the two rescue centres in Kuria West risked missing school if the government does not protect them from being subjected to the traditional cut.
“The main challenge now is incorporating the children back to the society, especially during this FGM period. Unless there is an intervention to pacify the children with their parents, they may end up undergoing the cut,” Mr Omondi said.
He called on the government to provide an enabling environment to the affected girls who he said lacked basic necessities as some escaped from their home empty handed.