I came back this morning from the heart of Gusiiland in western Kenya where I had gone on an urgent mission to rescue a grade two girl from imminent circumcision.
I was talking to her mum Wednesday morning when she casually mentioned both her kids (a boy and a girl) have traveled upcountry with their grandmother for circumcision. The moment she mentioned this alarm bells rang in my head – because I know female circumcision is very prevalent among the Kisii and due to government crackdown on the practice it is done on very young girls.
In 2010 I was involved in an anti-FGM campaign in Maasailand led by Lanoi Parmuat. Drawing from experience and knowledge i gained during this campaign i was able to convince the mum that having her girl undergo the practice was a very bad idea. So a plan for the rescue was hatched. We would to her rural home and tell the grandma that the girl was needed back at the school for a special Christmas performance. I am glad that everything went according to plan, I am however not sure that the grandmother was fooled. She might attempt to do it again next year. But for now the girl is safe.
Some background information on Kisii People
Gusiiland is located in western Kenya, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) east of Lake Victoria. Abundant rainfall and very fertile soils have made Gusiiland one of the most productive agricultural areas in Kenya. Since 1889, the Gusii as a single ethnic group have occupied the Kisii and Nyamira counties of southwestern Kenya. The Kisii are one of the most economically active communities, tea, coffee, and bananas being the major cash crops of the area. The 2010 census puts Kisii as the seventh largest tribe in Kenya. Also the Kisii have the highest proportion of circumcised women in any Kenyan society, with an estimated 97% of adult, Kisii women having undergone the operation (Demographic and Health Survey, 2008)