Persistence of Female Genital Mutilation in Kenya: A Case of Meru County
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Kubai, Faith Kairuthi
Mount Saint Vincent University
The goal to end FGM in Kenya by 2022 seems bleak since the practice persists in hotspot areas such as Meru County. This study discusses the persistent crisis of FGM by examining existing discursive practices using feminist content analysis on online content in three organizations that work in the county. The analysis demonstrates that despite having a clear goal to end FGM, there are internal divisions on the use of Do No Harm language, effectiveness of the anti-FGM law, structural gender inequalities fueled by patriarchy and the insider-outsider differences in the African-led movement to end the harmful practice. The divisions emanate from gendered functions of FGM relative to the economic, political, and sociocultural organization of the community that are further exacerbated by the historical positions of sexism, racism, and colonialism characterized by top-down approaches. These are noteworthy because they are key contributing factors in the inability of present approaches to stem FGM and they show that the problem necessitates a bottom-up approach where activists need engagement with what works in their community context and get support to eradicate the practice. Use of discourse analysis in this study helped to consider activists’ standpoints, and grassroots and funder community input that ultimately call for dialogue among stakeholders. The voice of activists is expressed through the content they post in the online media while the grassroots community standpoint is taken from their verbal and written content in the form of testimonies and quotes from anti-FGM campaign training feedback. The funder community as a stakeholder plays a part through the stipulations and recommendations for grantees. This study shows that more successful eradication interventions will depend on factors such as sensitivity to the insider/outsider perspective, dialogue about the FGM law with the community and a focus with more attention on the role of patriarchal power in maintaining FGM practice and on shifting structural changes through women empowerment especially economically.