On 21 June, as part of the AFTER (Against Female Genital Mutilation / Cutting (FGM/C Through Empowerment and Rejection) Project, we welcome a delegation from Kenya as part of the Testimony Tour. The tour aims at sharing the successes and challenges of activists combating FGM/C in their community.
We are delighted to have the opportunity to learn from the valuable experiences of our guests. Each has a unique insight into the fight against FGM/C.
Pictured above: Susan, Dinah and Cholonge standing in front of the Haypenny Bridge, Dublin.
The Team from Kenya
Dinah Chepkemei. ActionAid Kenya Capacity Building Coordinator – Policy, Advocacy and Campaigns.
Dinah is a policy expert who works with ActionAid Kenya to develop strategies, campaign plans and policy recommendations for government. She has worked with ActionAid Kenya in establishing a number of regional community networks that focus on tackling FGM/C.
A true role model in her community, what drives Dinah’s work is the belief that FGM/C “perpetuates a cycle of violence for women and girls.” She argues that through female empowerment, they may “decide what to do with their bodies once they are adults.”
Dinah stresses the importance of breaking the silence around FGM/C and sharing information on suspected practices. She hopes that we here in Ireland, may break the cycle of violence through bringing issues around FGM/C into broader discourse.
Cheposalawich Cholongosia (Cholonge). Member of the KOMESI Network. A reformed circumciser, she now campaigns against it.
Cholonge, while balancing life as a farmer and mother, actively supports KOMESI Women’s Network in her community. She bravely protects girls and women in her community who are in danger of FGM/C. Cholonge does this by training and advising them on how to reject the practice. She also supports survivors of FGM/C by accompanying them to the police, children’s office or their school administration.
She previously practiced FGM/C, but stopped after realising the trauma and danger of the practice, having seen girls die during the procedure. Now sensitised, Cholonge is a champion for change, wishing to see “girls and women live happy lives with no pain.”
Cholonge has been successful in helping other circumcisers abandon the FGM/C practice. She hopes that her story will help encourage more communities “to reach out to those they know practice FGM.” A promoter of women empowering other women, her transformation makes her testimony important for us in understanding how to end FGM/C in our communities.
Susan Cheyech Alukulem. Chairperson for KOMESI Women’s Network and Community Activist against FGM/C.
Susan, also a farmer and mother, is a representative for KOMESI Women’s Network, working to protect vulnerable women and girls from FGM/C.
She runs empowerment training for girls and women in local schools and community centres, helping them to reject FGM/C. She also fosters individuals during times when they are most vulnerable to the practice, such as during school holidays.
As a survivor of FGM/C, Susan’s testimony is particularly valuable. She wants to ensure that women and girls, including her daughters, are granted the opportunity to pursue education and are protected from FGM/C. In her own words, “I want to save my girls and many other girls and women from the pain I went through.”
Susan’s successful support of women and girls in her community informs her belief that “women with women” creates a “powerful structure”. We hope that her promotion of this ‘powerful structure’ helps in our own fight to end FGM/C here in Ireland.
What can Ireland do?
What these women have in common is the belief that the best way to challenge the continuing practice of FGM/C in our communities, is through women empowering one another. Their stories and the successes contained within them, demonstrate the benefit of community workshops such as Empowerment Paths in the fight against FGM/C.
During the Testimony Tour in Ireland, Dinah, Susan and Cholonge will be participating in our Empowerment Paths in Cork. And they will meet with the Irish Consortium on Gender Based Violence (ICGBV). As well as participating in a Q&A discussion after the Irish premiere of Girls from Earth; a documentary produced by Respect for Change.
Pictured here: Cholonge, Dinah and Susan standing on Marlboro St, Cork City.