Isiolo County Part 2: Fighting FGM and Early Marriages through Interfaith Networks

“I did not talk to my mother for months,” claims Grace. She took the money given to her by her mother to cut her daughter and kept it. Grace is very passionate about FGM, which is a huge issue facing the community especially the Samburu. “Your child will not get a husband’, ‘your child will be a social pariah’, ‘you will be an outcast’ are some of the threats she got due to what she stands for. FGM in Isiolo County happens to girls as young as 3years and causes girls to drop out of school due to early marriages. Early marriage is an issue that Fatuma fights to end in her community; she has saved many young girls from early marriages. Grace and Fatuma work hard to eradicate these vices from their communities.

FGM in Isiolo County happens to girls as young as 3years and causes girls to drop out of school due to early marriages.

 Interfaith network has created avenues and platforms for reporting FGM and early marriages; when young girls face such threats they know where they can seek refuge.  The women have done trainings and advocacy among the young girls; this has enlightened and given them confidence to report such issues. Due to the society being highly patriarchal issues of rape, especially of young girls are often dismissed by the elders if the rapist promises to marry the girl (by giving mbuzi and sukari nne). Threats like ‘it’s a curse you will die’, ‘you will never get someone to marry you’ ‘you will be an outcast’ are also used to keep the girls quiet. The women of faith network in partnership with other organizations use different platforms to create awareness among the young girls; they go from primary to secondary schools training these girls.

Halima who is the chairlady of the women of Faith in Isiolo says that the interfaith network has enabled them to addresses issues on service delivery in the county. By being part of the team conducting Social Intelligence Report (SIR) in the county, it gives them an avenue to lobby and participate in platforms where they can air their views.

“The SIR project in Isiolo has a good approach to issues, it brings in local leaders, like the MCA, religious groups who help us lobby on what can be done to improve service delivery.” Halima

Through this report they have identified issues in the health sector especially on lack of basics drugs in hospitals, issues of maternal death and mortality of 0-5year olds. Interfaith gives them platforms that enable them to represent the women and highlight their issues in different forums and barazas (like the budget process). They attend trainings, workshops, do radio talk shows and work closely with local leaders (MCAs), where they lobby on how to improve service delivery in the county. They face challenges such as lack of resources, some of the barazas are pre-planned where they have specific people to ask questions or air their views, and also their community is highly patriarchal.

Isiolo Women of Interfaith Network consists of women from all the different sub-counties, and has given them a platform to raise pertinent issues that affect them directly or indirectly. The network enables women to access the government (nationally and at the county level), leaders and other decision makers in order to address these issues. Representatives from Diakonia talked to the women about gender streamlining, gender inclusion and feminism. Gender mainstreaming ensures that all the genders are incorporated in all the undertakings; and makes sure issues from the different genders are realized and addressed.

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