Refusing to Be ‘Cut,’ Kenyan Girl Wins the Battle for Her Future
Tusiampei Oyei is aiming high. She wants to go to university and become a commercial pilot.
A few years ago her dreams wouldn’t have had a chance. Then, there was not a single girl who made it to grade eight at Ntimama Ridge School in Narok, 93 miles southwest of Nairobi, Kenya.
“Most girls leave school from class five. Once they undergo the ‘cut’ [female genital mutilation/cutting or FGM/C], they are forced to get married since they are made to understand that they are now grown women,” says Agnes Ntimama, a teacher at the school.
More than 70 percent of women and girls in Narok undergo FGM/C, say local anti-FGM/C organizations. Communities that hold to the tradition maintain that it is a crucial part of a woman’s identity. Girls are rewarded with gifts and celebrations after they are cut. Those who refuse may be forced to comply or shunned.
World Vision and other nongovernmental organizations lead anti-FGM/C campaigns that encourage parents, government officials, teachers, and community leaders to end the practice. Women who have not gone through FGM/C serve as role models, encouraging girls to resist societal pressure to follow the tradition.
Girls who refuse FGM/C, like Tusiampei, stay as boarding students at Ntimama Ridge School while their parents are contacted and the matter is reported to the area chief. FGM/C has been illegal in Kenya for more than 10 years; in 2011 an outright ban was placed on cutting.
“I wish all parents would abide by the law and say ‘no’ to FGM,” says Tusiampei. “This would give their girls a chance to be what they want to be in life.”
Written by Kathryn Reid. Additional Contributor: Joyce Mulama