Every year, hundreds of girls and young women in Kenya are forcibly circumcised and this has often been done under the cover of cultural practices. A majority of these young girls are from the pastoralist communities and have often been locked out of education and personal growth.
To create a safe space for girls and women, men must be at the forefront of ending harmful cultural practices such as female circumcision, and stop women battering and early marriages.
Unfortunately, a report by the World Health Organisation shows more than 200 million girls and women have undergone the cut in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
As we continue celebrating strides made in ending female circumcision locally and internationally, it is unfortunate that often men have taken passive roles and do not actively participate in ensuring girls and women are safe. While progress has been made, it is up to the men of our generation to commit themselves fully through partnership and collaboration to ensure the safety of girls and women.
In the majority of pastoralist communities, the leadership roles have been traditionally occupied by men and having them at the forefront in the fight against such vices would be transformational.
Often, girls from patriarchal societies hardly get the right or relevant type of education that would make them overcome the social, cultural and health challenges they face.
The absence of men in many of these initiatives, has deepened discrimination against girls and women, there has been gender disparity in enrolment and transition of girls in opportunities from one level to the next, especially among the pastoralists.
This gap must be closed as participation of men is critical for success. Men can foster positive beliefs and attitudes and raise awareness on the impact of female circumcision.
In many communities girls continue to fight for their rights which include fair representation in decision making and overcoming cultural barriers which in most cases reduces their fully participation in governance issues.
While poverty and failing social moral fabric have been mentioned as the contributors of girls abandoning their dreams, the government, in collaboration with other agencies, must address the issues of poverty and inequality so as to increase chances for women and girls to succeed.
Lemargeroi Saruni, Samburu