As young as she was below the age of 30, Dr Jane George Sempeho accepted the challenge to go out to a hard to reach community via her organization (Amref- Health Africa) to help the Masaai pastoralist communities fight against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) which is done to girls who are not aware of their rights.
Sempeho dedicated her time and energy to raise awareness on the effects of FGM and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) to the Masaai girls, Elders, Women, Young Men (Morans) and the circumcisers.
Today, she was nominated for the 2017 Nelson Mandela-Graca Machel Innovation Awards.
This year on the 14th of June 2017, she was able to graduate 300 girls (leading a team of 3 people) through an Alternative Rights of Passage (ARP) ceremony where girls under go all traditional teachings of FGM except the cut.
How many people were reached?
She has reached different groups of people in the past year. She was able to reach 300 girls who underwent ARP Ceremony after a 3 days training on effects of FGM and SRHR. After this training the girls were ready to denounce FGM. She was also able to reach 200 community members including elders, young men (Morans), women and circumcisers.
Impact of the activities
The awareness raised on the effects of FGM and Sexual and SRHR as opened the community members eyes on some of the complications caused by FGM like obstructed labour due to the genital scaring secondary to FGM.
This has led to some circumcisers (who are the major community influencers of FGM) denouncing the FGM act. An example of this is Sabina Lucas who is an an ex-circumcisers who is currently an anti- FGM activist in her community.
In an Alternative Rights of Passage (ARP) Ceremony conducted on the 14th June 2017, among the invited guests was the Deputy Minister of health (of Tanzania) Hon. Dr. Hamis Kigwangala.
After realising how much these girls are suffering and the need to scale up such activities in other parts of the country where FGM is practised , he promised to spearhead the development of an anti-FGM guideline specifically on the ARP model (involves retaining the FGM traditional teachings but stopping the CUT)- refer Mwananchi Newspaper 16.06.17
Strong upheld traditional believes of the community members and working on a model encouraging behavioral change, this takes time.
Behavioral change takes time and in human rights issues with deeply rooted traditional believes like the case of FGM requires understanding the communities’ culture and traditions first before awareness raising.
There is also a need to identify the community influencers of this tradition (for these Masaai communities it is the elders, circumcisers and the mothers of the girls).The enforcement of legislature in the fight against FGM is not always effective, education is the best remedy.
What makes the work so innovative?
The nominee starts her work by gaining a deeper understanding of the communities’ (Masaai) culture and traditions before commencing awareness raising.
This makes her know which members of the community to target first to encourage acceptability and adaptability. Then she raises awareness on the effects of FGM in groups as the community’s culture does not allow the mixing of the different groups in gatherings.
She then works together with the community to organise a model anti-FGM ceremony (also known as ARP ceremony), where a group of girls will be taught on the effects of FGM and SRHR for three days before graduating on the fourth day.At ARP graduation ceremony, the girls openly denounce FGM in front of their parents, elders and future husbands (Morans).
This article has been largely sourced from togtherwespeak.org