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Tuesday, 21 April 2015 00:00

Pioneering FGM project proves huge success

Cricket Without Boundaries has embarked on a pioneering new project to use cricket to help end FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) in Kenya.

Working alongside local team the Maasai Cricket Warriors (MCW), volunteers from CWB and FGM charity 28 Too Many used the game to promote gender equality in the rural region of Laikipia.

Combining anti-FGM messages with cricket, the group coached 1750 schoolchildren and trained 24 teachers, health workers and doctors as coaches during a week-long visit.

Project leader Tracey Davies said: “It's been incredible to see the impact that this project has had and will continue to have. This week has been inspiring and life changing for individuals, the community and the whole team involved.”

The practice of FGM - also known as female circumcision – is illegal in Kenya but in Laikipia’s Maasai community three out of four girls are still subjected to it, often as a rite of passage as they move into adulthood.

Having previously worked with MCW to use cricket to raise HIV/AIDS awareness in their community, CWB were contacted by two of the team’s players to join the fight against FGM. Brothers Daniel and Benjamen Mamai supported their younger sister Nancy by asking their family not to have her cut after learning about the dangers of FGM. Despite initially being ostracized by parts of the community for making this stand, they wanted to ensure that no other girls would have to go through the ordeal.

Had Nancy been cut she would have been forced into early marriage and had to drop out of school. Instead she now hopes to become a doctor and is starting a cricket team at her school.

UK based FGM charity 28 Too Many co-partnered the project, providing expertise on the practice.

Its founder and director, Ann-Marie Wilson said: “Our research has shown that lasting change to end FGM needs to come from within a community and therefore working alongside the inspirational Maasai Cricket Warriors has been essential to the project’s success.

“We were delighted to work with CWB to develop this pioneering project against FGM. There is now a sound base for this work to take hold and grow within the community.”

The team that travelled to Kenya, were largely female to demonstrate that girls can be strong leaders within their community and can be an advocate for change.

During training sessions the acronym BAT was used to promote the key steps to end FGM. B stood for Break the silence and speak about FGM, A - Advocate for Change, and T – Together we can make a change to end FGM. This was then fused into the coaching eg a player would Advocate bowling with a straight arm. Each session involved boys and girls playing together to highlight that both genders have a key part to play in ending FGM, working together as a team like in cricket. This was reinforced with a festival featuring 170 local schoolchildren.

Throughout the trip the overall message was simple - to BAT FGM out of Kenya.

In order to make a lasting impact the team sought the support of the key figures within the Maasai community. The District Commissioner and Head of Police fully supported the project and the team also met with the Maasai Elders – the traditional governors of their community. Despite the strong tradition of FGM within their community they gave their approval of the project and pledged to support future cricket projects within the Maasai region.

At the end of the project MCW chairman, Francis Mashame, said: “I fully support the initiative and I hope we will all join hands and end this menace.”

Following the success of the trip CWB is looking to expand the programme and is committed to continue using cricket to help empower women and put a stop to FGM.

FGM Facts

  • Female genital mutilation (FGM) is an ancient traditional practice dating back over 2000 years which involves the partial or total removal of the external female genitals for non-medical reason. It is estimated that over 125 million girls and women in Africa and the Middle East have undergone FGM and 3 million are at risk each year (UNICEF, 2012).
  • Across Kenya the prevalence of FGM in 15-49 year olds has reduced from 37.6% (1998) to 27.1% (2008-9). However prevalence is much higher in the Maasai at 73.2 % (2008-9).

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