DIARY – A Vojage to FGM Issue in Kenya

In spring 2010 AIDOS (Italian association for women in developement) asked me as a member of Audiodoc (italian association of indipendent audio documentarist) to train a Workshop in Nairobi on the possibilities of radio and audio documentaries to enforce the fight against the practice of female genital mutilations in Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia.

Female genital mutilations… what they are? I don’t know, I mean… I’ve heard about some tribes that cut clitoris, but sometimes, maybe, a vulva could be stitched… I really don’t know.

I’m a male. I live in Europe. And, even if I have a feminist sticker on my guitar, even if I can say that I tried to be sensitive about female issues in Europe, my first feeling is that I’m a stupid. I’m a male who lives inside the sicurity of a male everyday life.

So I feel that I have to start a journey inside the female genital mutilations issue, to find what it is, who practice it, how, which reasons they have to do it. I’m starting from from the thins I have: first, my ignorance; then, my beeing a male and my beeing the same old white westener that goes in Africa in order to fix somethig “wrong”. The only thing I know, is that i want to be different from what I am now, when I”ll come back.

Train from Verona to Rome, plane from Rome to Zurich, another plane from Zurich to Nairobi. I’v a a lot of documentation about FGM/C that I downloaded before I left. The first thing I find is that WHO (world health organization) has defined three types of genital mutilations. So, we are non talking about “a thing” to fight against, but a name, a definition, that contains different customs. So, I start to a understand that I cannot talk about “a cure”, but I have to think about different strategies, different ways of intervention if we want to be effective with our work on FGM/C issue. But, you know, modern airplanes are very confortable, so I leave the documents and I turn on my personal screen to play Tetris. All fly long.

In Nairobi I meet Jane and Marceline, that will be our guides for our six days in Kenya. I say “our” because with me there’s the RAI journalist Anna Maria Giordano, that come with me as a reporter.

 

Jane and Marceline are members of Amwik (association of media women in Kenya). Jane is the president, and explain me what is her work in Nairobi.

 

The first person I meet is Doctor Jaldesa Guyo, a gynecologist who works at the Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi.

He made some important researches on FGM/C complications management.

His words are my first step inside the FGM/C issue in Kenya.

Listen to him, is like touch life and skin of all the FGM/C victims with my own two hands. I think that as first step, it’s the right one.

Dr. Guyo, like me, is a male trying to understand female issues passing through male arguments first.

 

Sheikh Ibrahim Lethome Asmani is impossible to define in one word.

His story, his life and the work he is doing in the Somali community and the words he uses are so fascinating to me, that I’ll need to listen to this interview again and again.

He’s Masai, he was born as Christian and became soon muslim. He saw two sisters of him being cutted and he started to work against the practice.

First as lowyer; than he saw that the law didn”t work against religious reasons, so he took the Koran in his hands and started to talk with his community using the hole book.

He try to “delink FGM/C from Islam”. As i do, he think that reality, culture and religion are not something born once and fixed in nature, but they are “fabrications”, “processes” that change in time.

And now it”s time to change some customs about FGM/C.

 

Jane Murago-Munene is an indipendent Filmaker.

She founded CineArts Afrika in Nairobi.

In 2003 she started a trilogy of films on the greatest women issues in Africa.

“The price of a daughter” is on FGM/C. Meeting Jane is important to me.

As i try to do, she uses art as an instrument to give birth a change in her country. And she knows, ad I know, that is important to be indipendent to do that.

 

Maryam Sheikh Abdi is the first “victim” that I find on my way.

I meet her in a rainy day inside the UN offices.

She talks about her experience: she underwent infibulation when she was young, when she grew up she found other muslim women that they didn”t undergo FGM/C, and she understood that the religious reasons cannot stand still.

Now she works with a lot of organisations (and with Ibrahim Asmani too) to delink infibulation from islamic beliefs with his Somali community in Kenya.

Ad the end of interview, I pleasently realize that she is pregnant.

 

Alice Chae is a very kind and passionate person.

When she starts talking, I feel immediately at home.

When she arrives at AMWIK offices, Marceline introduces her saying “She’s a radio journalist, she’s a member of Amwik and she is a … survivor?” Alice starts loughing and says, embracing Marceline, “I”m not a survivor, I”ma a victim!”

She comes from Kissi, a region where almost every girl undergo cut.

Finally, I can talk with her about sex without chains and fears. I talk as a man, she talks as a women, a cutted woman, and we try togetherto understand how is the private life of FGM/C victims.

 

Alice Maranga is a sociologist that works at FIDA (federation of women lawyers in Kenya).

As Alice Chae, she comes from Kissi.

I can talk with her about the “Childrens Act”, tha law that forbids the FGM/C practice until majority. A law that needs to be “implemented”.

 

 

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