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Alternative Rite of Passage for Girls in Baringo

In our Baringo school communities, female genital mutilation (FGM), child marriage and early pregnancy are prevalent harmful cultural norms that prevent girls from continuing their education.

In November 2023, So They Can joined local stakeholders to facilitate 3-day awareness sessions for students, and community elders, on Alternative Rite of Passage (ARP).

ARP is widely recognised in Kenya as a substitute ceremony in traditional communities, which acknowledges when a girl enters womanhood, while upholding her rights, and protecting her health and wellbeing.

During the Children’s Session 105 children (77% girls) from local primary schools participated, and the sessions included a sign language translator for 3 girls who attended from Chemolingot School for the Hearing Impaired. The interactive sessions focussed on:

  • Child rights, and reporting child right violations
  • Dangers of FGM, and the positive transformation of ARP
  • Leadership skills 
  • Drug and substance abuse
  • Upholding good values in the community
  • Importance of good health and wellbeing

So They Can’s Baringo Education Officer, Jane, was one of the key presenters. She shared her own powerful story as a guiding example for participants:

‘I was born in Kositei. After graduating from the local primary school, I went on to high school and university. Education takes people far. 

I have peers who went through FGM but it was not their choice, they were pressured by their parents and people in the community. I was one of the lucky ones who did not. I participated in an ARP training, it was our circumcision of the mind. I am proud that since then, there hasn’t been any FGM ceremonies in Kositei, we changed the tradition. I urge all of you, girls and boys, to do the same and say NO to FGM’.

During the Elders’ Session 90 community elders participated. One of the female elders highlighted the importance of ARP as a way to change attitudes and behaviours, by sharing her own experience.

‘I was beaten because I took my children to school. When one of my daughters got pregnant I became the laughing stock of my community. But, I did not give up. I ensured that my daughter continued her education, and I took care of my grandchild. Now my daughter is a teacher, she is doing very well. I am a role model in my community, as I encourage other women to take their children to school’.

This initiative was jointly organised by World Vision; Kenya Big Dream (KBD), So They Can, Save the Children, UNICEF, AIC/Compassion International in Chemolingot, and the Baringo County Government. Both children and elders will continue as ambassadors for Alternative Rite of Passage in their communities. The structure of the elders is anchored in the office of Deputy County Commissions to ensure continued support from the National Government for enhanced sustainability. Terms of Reference, and follow up meetings will also support continuation of this initiative.

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