The magic solution lies with the Sabiny girls and young women who are the victims. If they say no, who will say yes?
By Umar Weswala
Female genital mutilation (FGM) remains a thorn in the flesh of Sabiny culture, but as the next circumcision season approaches, Sabiny people with support from the Government as well as local and international development partners want zero FGM come 2016.
For years, Sabiny people, the government of Uganda, faith leaders, civil society leaders together with the UN agencies like UNFPA, UNICEF, UN Women and other stakeholders have invested a lot in efforts to end FGM.
The most recent effort was the 20th Sabiny Culture Day held on Monday December 21st at Amanang S.S grounds in Bukwo District.
I arrived at the venue early enough courtesy of UNFPA Uganda and my first interaction was with ‘Tina’, a Primary 5 pupil from Bukwo Primary School.
We all knew that it was a Sabiny Culture Day event but to Tina, it was a day for her to present a poem with an anti FGM message. She turned down by request to have her recite the poem to me first.
“Just wait you will see” was her simple response to me.
At age 12, Tina told me that FGM is a dangerous practice which she will never give in to or wish for her friends.
The theme of the event was “Culture for improved Livelihoods”. This fit in so well with Tina’s message of defiance against FGM. The practice has destroyed the livelihoods of many Sabiny girls and women but Tina was not about to let her life be destroyed by FGM.
When time came for Tina and her friend to present their poem, I was not disappointed because the message was loud and clear;
“FGM FGM, why do you make us get married so early, we are tired of you, get out of our Sabiny land” read one of the lines in the poem.
It will take the efforts of all Sabiny people to end FGM but to me, the magic solution lies with the Sabiny girls and young women who are the victims. If they say no, who will say yes?
The cutters known as ladies of the knife are giving up the knife day by day. Those who are holding on to the knife will have no one to cut because the girls have said no.
The Sabiny elders who used to be the key defenders of FGM have denounced the practice. The Chairman of Bukwo Elders Union Mzei Anguria Stephen accompanied by a big delegation of Sabiny elders openly denounced FGM and urged his fellow Sabiny people to shun the practice and educate Sabiny girls.
I was told there are a few elders who still believe in FGM and advocate for it in some isolated communities of Sebei. But now that the girls have said no and the entire Sabiny people are behind them, I can see zero FGM cases come 2016.
I understand some local politicians used to fear to speak out against the FGM because they cared for the votes of those elders who supported the practice. Now that the elders have joined the Sabiny girls and said no to FGM, I expect all the Sabiny political elites to speak out against FGM without fear or favour.
My greatest fear in this whole FGM problem was that the girls were not empowered, their parents were not informed and the communities were still backward.
Now that the girls are empowered and they fear no spirits, the parents are informed about the dangers of FGM and the communities have embraced modernity of some sort, the efforts of the government of Uganda, politicians, faith leaders, civil society leaders, the UN and other stakeholders to end FGM will soon pay off.
The writer is a blogger and media practitioner