Nurses aid girls undergo FGM in Marsabit county

By Nancy Onyancha
Nuru Hassan (not her real name), is busy doing some house chores, at their home in Gorgoresa in Marsabit County. She has just finished washing the utensils, and is now mopping the house.
The 20-year-old finished her Secondary Education  in 2016, and is awaiting to join college soon.
Born in a family of four siblings – two boys and two girls, Nuru* vividly remembers, how she was initiated into adulthood ten years ago, by being subjected to female genital mutilation, a traditional practice, that is still common in the area.
“We were told to wake up very early in the morning and take a shower a few minutes later we were joined by our local nurse who administered anesthesia to us and then we were told to brave the cut,” she recalls.
Unlike her peers, Nuru’s process of initiation was not that painful as she claims. This is because she was administered the anaesthesia injection before the cut.
“My parents are nurses, so they know the dangers of FGM and that’s why they chose the medicalisation of FGM,” she adds.
The early morning exercise saw her and seven other girls go through a practice, that no one has ever bothered to explain to them its importance.
“In this area, it’s like almost every girl has undergone the cut so one cannot even dare to question why they are being subjected to the cut and the benefits that come along with it,” she laments
FGM medicalisation in Marsabit County, has been considered an option, by the civilised parents, who prefer it over the tradition way of cutting girls, so as to protect their daughters from suffering the health risks that come along with FGM.
The traditional method of circumcising girls, usually involves a traditional cutter, who’s accompanied by several women, to help hold the girl while she’s being cut. Initially, the cutter used to have specific tools for circumcision. However, they nowadays use razor blades, bought by the girls parents.
World Health Organisation defines FGM medicalisation as the process whereby a health-care provider performs FGM, whether in a public or a private clinic, at home or elsewhere.
Nuru together with her peers claim that they were subjected to the Sunna type of FGM, whereby the cutter only cuts a small part of the clitoris. However, the anti-FGM Prohibition Act that was passed in 2011, outlaws any form of female mutilation.
“This kind of FGM is just like any other only that a nurse is involved to administer the anaesthesia and sometimes perform the cutting,” says Nuria Halake, an anti FGM activist in Marsabit.
Despite the efforts by different stakeholders in the fight against FGM, communities which still hold onto this retrogressive culture are coming up with ways of continuing the practicing. They have not only introduced the FGM medicalisation, but also the cross-border cutting.
19-year-old Fatiya*, is a victim of cross-border cutting in Marsabit County. She has requested us to refer to her as Fatiya in this publication, so as to seal her identity.
Fatiya was subjected to female genital mutilation at the age of nine, against her wish, at her aunt’s home in Ethiopia.
When her aunt visited their home in Marsabit, she requested her parents to go with Fatiya, so that she could help her take care of her children in Ethiopia. This forced Fatiya’s parents to take her out of school and allow her aunt to go with her.
However, after a couple of days in Ethiopia, her aunt invited a cutter in her house, and subjected Fatiya together with her female cousins to FGM.
“The process was very painful, but due to the stigma that the uncut girls face, I had to persevere. Uncut girls are usually a laughing stock in the community from their fellow peers, and their family at large. In fact the family considers it as a betrayal when you refuse to be cut.  Furthermore, the community believes that no man is willing to marry an uncircumcised girl,” Fatiya narrates.
According to Nuria Halake, the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Marsabit Women Advocacy and Development MWADO, which champions for the rights of women and girls in Marsabit, the fight against FGM in Marsabit requires the involvement of everyone in the county.
“For this practice to end we have to go and see the Borana King Abaghadha. His word is usually considered as a law. If he says no one should practice FGM, it will end,” Nuria says confidently.
The 51-year-old mother of five, resigned from her teaching job to become a full time activist in Marsabit to help save women and girls from such undergoing through such vices.
“As a teacher I realized many girls were dropping out of school after circumcision and then forced into marriage,” she adds.
The children officer in the county, Charles  Omwoyo, observes that of the more than 1000 cases of child abuse and neglect received, FGM cases are so rampant.
““We receive more than 300 cases of fgm related cases monthly from all the sub counties. However, most of the cases don’t reach completion since the whole of Marsabit county depends on one court, making it difficult even to prosecute the perpetrators,” Omwoyo adds.
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