"Both legal and community change are needed to...foster... long-term behavioural change that will see an end to the practice. A law banning FGM is a powerful way of creating social change, by showing that the world itself is changing, by showing that 'culture' cannot trump women's rights and by telling a community, a country or the world that a government has made a violence-free world for women an unequivocal goal." - Jebii Kilimo Foundation
Spotlight B2 - "Bringing it all Together: Ending FGM through Strong and Effective National Action"
Context: This presentation is from one of the 14 "Spotlights on Progress" video-recorded sessions from the Girl Summit 2014, London, United Kingdom (UK). The sessions were organised to share best practice between practitioners, grassroots activists, and government ministers across the issues of female genital mutilation (FGM) (also FGM/C - female genital mutilation/cutting) and child, early, and forced marriage (CEFM). The Girl Summit is a project of the Department for International Development (DFID), UK.
Profile of speaker: Hon. Dr. Linah Kilimo has held a number of Ministerial positions and is the immediate former Chairperson of the Kenya Women Parliamentary Association (KEWOPA). For many years, she has been an avid crusader against FGM and participated in the creation of the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act 2011. She has been working with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) across Kenya, campaigning for the eradication of FGM and promoting Girl Child education. Hon. Dr. Kilimo was appointed by Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta to chair the newly formed Anti-Female Genital Mutilation Board in December 2013. To cite another example, Hon. Dr. Kilimo is a mentor, speaking to girls in schools throughout Kenya. She is passionate about human rights and the empowerment of the girl child. She has been involved in rescuing girls that were victims of FGM, whose physical consequences have included haemhorrhage, fistulae, and others, added to the psychological damages. She has arranged for humanitarian medical assistance and provided sustainable financial support for victims.
Hon. Dr. Kilimo holds an honourary Doctor of Divinity Degree from Esther Mallet International Bible University in Norwalk, California, United States (2006) and holds a Bachelor's degree (BA) in Counseling from the Kenya Methodist University (KeMU, 2014). She holds a Diploma in Control & Management of HIV/AIDS from Kenyatta University. Hon. Dr. Kilimo has obtained further training in Norway and Italy on Children's rights, which culminated in the creation of the Children's Hotline, while serving in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Office of the President.
To learn more about Hon. Dr. Kilimo's political career and her leadership as part of KEWOPA, the Jebii Kilimo Foundation, and other organisations, click here.
Strategy overview: In her presentation "Government of Kenya's Multi-Sectoral Approach to Ending FGM", which can be viewed in the video below, Hon. Dr. Kilimo notes that Kenya has made substantial progress in reducing the prevalence of FGM. The newly established board aims to coordinate efforts to end FGM and CEFM. Kenya's strategy recognises the importance of ensuring that people understand the law as well as the work that is taking place at the community level. The government has also ensured that a broad group of stakeholders are engaged in ending FGM. She credits this progress to political leadership, including that of former President Kenyatta, faith organisations (which found that there was no justification for FGM in the Koran), and civil society, which has produced major champions. Following civil society reports and pressure, the Kenyan government passed the Children's Act in 2001. Hon. Dr. Kilimo commended the Kenyan government and Parliament for their role. She discussed the importance of a multi-sectoral approach that led to getting the law passed. For instance, Sheiks/Muslims decided that FGM is not required/permissible per the Koran. Hon. Dr. Kilimo also discussed the role of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in helping get this law passed; they sensitised communities on the dangers of FGMs. Throughout this process, Hon. Dr. Kilimo says, what was needed were champions, such as herself. She cited her own experience at the age of 9, having refused FGM due to her education about the dangers of the practice.
As part of this process, according to the Jebii Kilimo Foundation website, KEWOPA undertook efforts such as training over 1,500 women and men, including community leaders, on FGM and related issues, such as the legal framework.
From the "One Year On" [PDF] report: A national radio programme held an interactive discussion, which was open to the general public, as a follow-up to the Girl Summit, with a representative from the Anti-FGM Board. The Girl Generation launched in Kenya in 2014. Kenya actively participates in the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)-United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Joint Programme on FGM/C, including technical support to its Department for Public Prosecution and the Anti- FGM Board, which implements the Prohibition of FGM Act. The Joint Programme also supports civil society organisations, as well as religious and community leaders in high-prevalence areas.
Overview of this Summit session: Speakers from African and European countries came together in this session to discuss what they have done to ensure coordinated and comprehensive national action towards ending FGM in their own countries and to seek insight from each other's experiences. They talk about how they have creatively brought together diverse groups to achieve consensus on what needs to happen to end FGM, highlighting critical steps towards success as well as challenges. Following an opening by Cathy Russell, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues, United States, the speakers, in order of appearance, are:
- Hon. Dr Linah Jebii Kilimo, Chair of the Anti-FGM Board, Kenya
- Dr. Alain P. Zoubga, Minister for Social Action and National Solidarity, Government of Burkina Faso
- Norman Baker, MP Minister of State for Crime Prevention, Government of the United Kingdom
- Zsanett Shashaty, Anti-Slavery Officer for the Welsh Government
- Vitor Almeida, Senior Advisor in the Portuguese Commission for Citizenship and Gender Equality, Government of Portugal
- Dr. Morissanda Kouyate, Executive Director, Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices
The session was moderated by Susan Bookbinder, who is a journalist, broadcaster, columnist and media consultant with a particular focus on FGM.
Footage of this (available below) presentation and others are available on DFID’s YouTube channel.
The Girl Summit is a project of DFID. Click here and scroll down to see the full list of individuals and organisations committed to working on girls' issues, as well as a list of Girl Summit Charter signatories.