By Our Reporter
A group of women and men appear on the stage, now turned into a traditional courtyard for Female Genital Mutilation in Kween.
“This young girl has refused to get circumcised, pave way for her, and let the surgeon come, we shall force her because this is the way of our culture,” said the group as they forcefully carried the girl before the surgeon for FGM at Bukwo district.
As the surgeon appears from the rare with her knife, the young girl fights back and tells them she won’t take circumcision but they wrestle her to the ground and as the surgeon bends to cut her, another young girl appears on the scene and restrains her.
“Why are you killing this young girl? Why do you want to circumcise her? FGM must stop now to restore dignity of girl-child; you will be arrested and imprisoned. This practice must end and we request you to join us in this fight,” said Ms Evelyn Chemutai, 19, putting on falsetto voice to imitate the old woman she is playing.
“We need respect as girls and women. FGM is outdated; it is a health risk, inhuman and an abuse of rights of every girl and woman. We must stop FGM,” she says.
The villagers, who were determined to circumcise the young girl, were dazed when she approached them with these words.
The girls in the audience giggle Ms Chemutai who wears a blue headscarf, which she holds together under her chin with one hand with exaggerated gestures, tries to explain to the audience why the tradition of female circumcision is bad.
Everyone released the girl at once and stood still as they watched the young girl pronounce this.
Although they were surprised when they heard this from this girl, they stood still, listened to the girl, looked at the young girl, there was a feeling of a burden weighing so heavily upon them to speak back but an inner voice restrained them and at once they released the girl.
The misery this girl goes through typifies the misery faced by thousands of young girls in Sebei sub-region where the tradition does not give them an opportunity to speak their mind and say no to FGM.
This is a scene in the play entitled ‘We shall end FGM, restore dignity of girl-child, rekindle their hope being staged in every community to sensitise people about the dangers of FGM.
Young girls are expected to undergo FGM before they can be regarded as women and perform other duties such as attending village meetings, serving food to newly-circumcised boys, smear houses, get food from the granaries and also be leaders or speak in public.
The Reproductive Education and Community Health [REACH] programme is now using songs and drama to enlighten people to discard the practice that has persisted in the Sebei sub-region despite the government ban.
The drama/plays and songs emphasize that girls and women have rights and that it is up to them to decide the right cultures that can help girls get into adulthood. The drama/plays are acted in a local language Kup-Sabiny.
The drama also highlights the constitutional provisions like the duties of a citizen and women emancipation through education to discard the harmful FGM and GBV that is practiced in Kapchorwa, Kween and Bukwo.
The REACH programme received funding from AFDB through UNRA to undertake awareness creation on dangers of FGM and GBV on Kapchorwa-Suam road project area. The project is funded by African Development Bank [AFDB] through UNRA.
Under the programme, REACH, has initiated the participation of Sabiny irrespective of sex, educational background and age in a wide range of civic education programmes through face-to-face meetings at their homes, drama, and songs to end FGM.
The Director General of The REACH programme, Ms Beatrice Chelangat in a says girls/ women must be helped regain their dignity and rights through abandonment of FGM and GBV.
“Although Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly says no one shall be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, many of the Sabiny don’t know these rights. That is why they force girls into FGM.”
“Our target now is to bring these rights down to these people in Kupsabiny. Teach them children’s rights [girl-child] and women empowerment and that some cultures are bad and should be discarded,” she said.
Ms Chelangat says the purpose of drama is to fight FGM and GBV which are human rights violation and a danger to the health of women and girl child.
Formerly funded United Nations Population fund [UNFPA] in partnership with government of Uganda the Reproductive Education and Community Health (REACH), is an advocacy NGO against female circumcision.
Out of misfortune, many circumcised women have found a new calling; they are now vocal advocates through songs and drama for eliminating FGM/C and GBV in this remote, mountainous region through the REACH programme.
The young girls in the play are part of a growing network of women and men who are working for the complete elimination of harmful practices like FGM which leave a girl/woman suffering incontinence, excessive bleeding, urine retention, paralysis and even death during childbirth, living many of them at risk from HIV and other infections as well as psychological trauma.
Ms Chelangat said during the drama women leaders also narrate personal experiences as victims of the practice without shame or fear.
District Elders Forum [Bukwo] chairman Mr Stephen Anguria said the women must know their rights and cultures that usher them into adulthood without circumcision adding that the practice is most common among illiterate families.
Mr Anguria said although there are laws in Uganda prohibiting both FGM and GBV, these still persist among the Sabiny and Karimojong communities.
“Men in Sebei sub-region still beat their wives and do you know that FGM now takes place in Caves, bushes and across Kenya in a place called Kisawai in Trans-Nzoia where one old Woman called Ms Eva Kyafuwa mutilates about 100 girls daily? We need massive sensitization and education to end this,” said Mr Anguria.
Ms Harriet Aseko, Kapchorwa District Community Development Officer says violence against women and girls manifests in different forms and that these include intimate partner violence, non-partner sexual violence, sexual exploitation and trafficking, and harmful practices such as (FGM/C) and child, early and forced marriage, among others.
She explained that programmes to end harmful practices and programmes to end intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence are have been planned and are being implemented by the district and The REACH programme, despite all being rooted in gender inequality and gender-based discrimination against women and girls.
Ms Aseko applauded The REACH programme for initiating a range of activities including local drama to raise awareness against FGM and GBV in Sebei sub-region.
“Our reproductive health and community development departments must work harder to find other strategies to help communities and families abandon these harmful practices of GBV and FGM,” said Ms Aseko.
She added that improving understanding of the wider impacts of FGM/GBV and the potential abandonment interventions to impact more broadly on girls, women, their families and communities is also key in ending the harmful practices. Ends
In Sebei sub-region, cases of human rights violations including gender-based violence such as sexual harassment, child marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM), domestic and sexual violence have been on the rise, particularly with the containment measures for COVID-19.
Although, FGM/C affects only 0.3 per cent of the population in Uganda, in the districts and sub-counties where it is practiced in eastern Uganda, the prevalence goes up to 53 per cent in some districts like Moroto [among the Tepeth].
While the 2016 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey reveals that up to 22% of women aged 15 to 49 in the country have experienced some form of sexual violence. The report also reveals that annually, 13% of women aged 15 to 49 report experiencing sexual violence. This translates to more than 1 million women exposed to sexual violence every year in the country.
The REACH programme through a funding from AFDB through UNRA is undertaking awareness creation on dangers of FGM and GBV on Kapchorwa-Suam road project area. The project is funded by African Development Bank [AFDB] through UNRA.