Kenya’s First Lady Margaret Kenyatta on Monday stood up for stakeholders and communities to support the adoption of alternative rites of passage that include mentoring to replace female genital mutilation (FGM).
“The proposal to lead girls through a 15-day induction program that includes sessions on mentoring into adulthood, healthy relationships, life skills training, basic housekeeping and the art of bead making is indeed welcome and the way forward,” it says in the First said the lady.
The First Lady spoke in Nairobi when she launched the Johari Beads Bracelet Initiative market study and business model. The Johari Beads Bracelet Initiative is a program run by the government and its partners to promote the pearl trade in support of efforts to end FGM in the country by next year.
The First Lady encouraged the anti-FGM campaign’s stakeholders to adopt the alternative rights of passage and urged the relevant state authorities to persevere in their efforts to end the retrograde practice.
“I also encourage our elders as custodians of culture and all who support them, including youth and women’s organizations, development partners, and civil society and religious organizations, to maintain this strong momentum in the elimination of FGM. We owe that to our women and girls, ”she said.
The First Lady also welcomed Johari’s business initiative, saying it had the potential to significantly empower women from pastoral and other communities who practice beadwork.
“As such, I see it as an important step towards the government’s lofty agenda to abolish FGM. To achieve gender equality under our constitution and to ensure that Kenyan women reach their full potential, we must, and I repeat, end FGM, ”said the First Lady.
She pointed out that FGM poses long-term health risks for young women and often leads to drop-outs and premature marriages, thereby endangering the girls’ chances of social and economic advancement.
At the same time, the First Lady was satisfied that the Johari Beads Initiative – a partnership between UNFPA, the Anti-FGM Board, the Ushanga Kenya Initiative and EcoBank for the economic empowerment of women – has developed into a major transformation program.
“The main objective of this program is to empower women and girls from pastoral communities by helping them use their pearl-making skills for an income while the pearl jewelry is used as a symbol of the transition to women.
“I note with satisfaction that Johari pearls have become a symbol of the eradication of FGM as part of the Ushanga Kenya Initiative,” said the First Lady.
She noted that the initiative has become a major source of income for women in the seven pastoral districts of West Pokot, Baringo, Samburu, Turkana, Narok, Marsabit and Kajiado, where FGM is most prevalent.
The first lady was delighted that the program reached over 5,000 women and helped them create 60 cooperatives.
In this regard, she urged officials at the State Department of Culture and Heritage to work with their trade and business development to connect the initiative’s social enterprise with broader markets and opportunities at the regional and global levels.
“I would expect the discussion to address the challenges facing small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the bead ecosystem and include viable measures to contain the threat of counterfeit imports and strengthen the bead value chain,” said the first lady.
In her address, Sports CS Amina Mohamed said the initiative was beginning to gain in importance worldwide and noted that the initiative had organized exhibitions in Dubai, Venice and Milan.
“It is the first of its kind in the world. It is a symbolic icon in the fight against gender-based violence and repressive social practices. This project has received a lot of attention across the country and around the world.
“She raised awareness of the dangers of FGM and supported President Kenyatta’s agenda to end FGM by 2022 and free our girls and women from pastoral communities from the shackles of poverty and indecency,” she said.
The country representative of the United Nations Population Fund for Kenya, Dr. Ademola Olajide, praised the government’s efforts to end the repression of women.
“In recent years, Kenya has consistently taken measures to strengthen women’s self-determination and protect their well-being,” said Dr. Olajide.
Other speakers included the Governor of Narok, Samuel Tunai, and the Chair of the Ushanga Kenya Initiative, Ms. Hellen Nkaissery.