Female genital mutilation seeking alternative rites of passage

The potential of a method of replacing female genital mutilation as an initiation into womanhood with culturally sensitive alternatives is to be explored.

The University of Leicester is hosting a workshop on ‘Alternative Rites of Passage: Their role in anti-FGM work in Africa’ on 9 March. Organised by the Institute for Advanced Studies, the workshop coincides with the University’s week-long celebration of International Women’s Day.

Alternative rites of passage, or ARP, is touted by NGOs and international donors as an alternative to female initiation into womanhood but without female genital mutilation/cutting. In these ceremonies and the instruction that usually precedes them, girls’ human rights (mainly to life, health, education, protection) and cultural rights (manifested in teachings and ritual elements that aim to mimic the cultural traditions of the community concerned) are intertwined in one social space. ARP is one element of longer-term strategies that can include community education and sensitisation, awareness-raising, the empowerment of girls and women, and law enforcement.

Alternative rites of passage are already combatting FGM in some parts of Kenya. However, there is currently very little understanding of a number of aspects of delivery, or the longer term implications. For example, do ARPs just delay FGM/FGC until later in someone’s lives? How do those who previously made money from carrying out FGM/FGC (often female elders) now supplement their income?

The workshop will bring representatives from Egerton and Kenyatta Universities, and from AMREF, a large iNGO working on FGM in Kenya to consider some of these questions.

Events at the University of Leicester to mark International Women’s Day have been taking place across the whole week from 5 – 9 March and will shine a light on the challenges that women face in all walks of life.  Through these events, the hope is that staff and students will come together to recognise gender inequalities that exist whilst celebrating the significant achievements of women.