FGM stands for Female Genital Mutilation and FGC stands for Female Genital Cutting. Dignity4Girls recognizes the offensiveness of the term "mutilation" which can hinder the effectiveness of a dialogue on the topic. We have transitioned to referring to the practice as FGC, for cutting, which is an accurate account of what is done to the girls.
What is FGC?
FGC is a harmful cultural practice where the female genitalia are cut. Those who practice it often celebrate the act as a young girl's "right of passage" into womanhood. However the procedure is very dangerous and can cause immediate and long term health risks. It is illegal in many countries, yet continues to be carried out in rural regions on girls from infancy to age 15.
The World Health Organization ( WHO) has condemned this practice and calls for an end to the procedure, stating that there is NO medical benefit to this practice and that "The practice violates a person's rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death."
(Learn more about FGC at https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/female-genital-mutilation)
May the rippling effects of our efforts continue to bless more and more girls as the silence surrounding this harmful practice is broken.
Help Dignity4Girls and the Grace Community Center-Kisii provide future anti-FGC events
Everyone was joyous as they all gathered together on the Grace Community Center property for the first time since COVID precautions started in 2020. Over 80 individuals participated, including 60 girls and 10 boys.
Several women who were the cutters of girls participated in this event. They listened and learned of the dangers and now these women have declared that they will no longer participate in cutting girls. In fact, they will speak out and tell others of the serious harm caused by FGC.
A woman who is high in the Kisii county administration came and shared with the girls that she was never cut and she was able to marry, have a good job, and has several children. She provided a wonderful role model for these girls, giving them hope that they can say "no" to the cut. Older generations tell girls that that no one will marry them without the cut.
To continue safe practices in response to COVID, the Grace Community Center held several smaller anti-FGM day camps through out Kisii County. Many girls were reached and enjoyed participating in the events
An inspiring 'ripple effect' from the 2019 GCC girls camp
A translator from the 2019 Grace Community Center’s annual girls camp was moved by the open discussions and lessons on the dangers of FGC that she witnessed between leaders and girls. Several months later she was inspired to incorporate the FGC lessons in her own annual leadership camp for 112 girls in her region. After witnessing the GCC camp, she felt empowered to discuss freely with girls this topic that is typically silenced and was inspired to help this generation of girls stop this harmful practice. Not only did those 112 girls benefit, but we recently learned that she has been awarded a grant to fund the sponsorship of 200 new girls in 2021.
This August camp was extra special for Dignity4Girls as our program director, Sandi Helm, was able to attended a day of camp while on her Kenyan mission trip.
In an effort to help all understand how harmful FGC can be Robert asked Sandi to present on the known dangers of the practice. The information was well received and a local evangelist even stated afterwards, "Why have you not come and told us this earlier, we need to tell all of the pastors and evangelists!" His comment confirms Roberts belief that sharing information openly about the dangers of FGC can help change the communities attitudes toward the traditional practice.
Robert and his team also recognize that it is very important for men and boys to understand the pactice of FGC and the harm it brings to the women and girls in their lives. So this year they invited 20 boys to attend the camp. Often FGC is perpetuated because men in the community, who are the head of the household, do not realize the dangers of the practice. Sadly, girls and women are instructed to be silent and never speak out about FGC and the pain and complications they may experience. Because of this, men and boys are unaware of how their mothers, sisters and daughters suffer. As the head of the house, an informed father could decide that his daughter should not be circumcized, as the cut is commonly called, and break cultural expectations. And to help girls who are not circumsized find husbands, it is also important that boys understand the harmfulness so that they will marry an uncircumsized girl.
For Robert, his team, and Dignity4Girls, this annual camp was extra special because it was the. first time it was held on land donated many years ago to the Sacred Center for Orphans and Widows. In January of 2019, through funds donated by D4G, work was begun to prepare the property to host this camp, as well as to house the hen farm and market stall. In the past, churches or schools were rented for the camps, which led to increased costs and challenges for sleeping arrangements and meal preparations. But at the newly opened center there was ample room for children to sleep, eat and play. Shortly after the camp, the property received recognition from the government as a charitable organization and was named the Grace Community Center. Click here to see photos of the center and the 2019 camp. The center is also recognized as an official rescue center, which means it can take in girls who are escaping FGC.
TIGA FGM = STOP FGM
In December 2018, Dignity4Girls and Sacred Center for Widows and Orphans sponsored it's first F.G.M. Awareness conference in Kenya for 50 select participants through a generous donation from Bethlehem Lutheran Church in River Grove, IL
To educate on the dangers of F.G.M. (Female Genital Mutilation), a harmful cultural practice that can cause infections, spread disease, create complications during childbirth and even result in death.
Educators, widows, women, the cutters and girls
Women and girls spoke openly about the pressures to participate in F.G.M. Educators spoke about the dangers and risks to the young girls at the time of cutting and the long term effects. Cutters expressed their concerns with other ways to make a living.
Robert hopes to make these conferences an annual event. He is considering making the next conference a focus on teaching men the dangers of F.G.M., since men have the final say in each household.
August 2018 Theme: Stop Cutting our Girls Future!
A profound title for a camp designed to remove girls from their communities during the traditional tribal FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) cutting ceremonies. These camps, held in April and August during school breaks, allow the girls an escape from the ritual while also preserving their standing in the community.
Parents, who would have to hide their girls to protect them from community pressure to participate, are very grateful and thank Robert for providing a safe haven while also offering them education on topics like feminine health, basic gardening, and the deep love of Christ.
In August, the opening devotion came from Genesis 17:9–13, inspiring the girls with the knowledge that only men are called to be circumcised—not women.
96 girls, ages 6-16, attended along with 20 mentors; older adolescent girls who have said “no” to the cutting. A team of 17 social workers and deaconesses carried out the program in a rented school (for sleeping) and nearby church.
Only a few girls we lucky enough to sleep on beds with nets. Others were on mats on the floor. Thankfully the area had been treated earlier for mosquitos, which can carry malaria.
Robert would love to someday build a community center with a dormitory on the donated land and have a permanent site for his camps—where all girls have a bed, blanket and protective net.
April 2019- A day camp for boys and girls focused on sports skills.
This will be an opportunity to share with boys the need to respect women and girls, who are often considered the lowest in the community.