Three experts were invited to lead the discussion on the topic,
- Natalie Robi Tingo, End FGM Activist, founder and executive director of Msichana Empowerment Kuria, Kenya
- Joséphine Wouango, anthropologist, lecturer at the University of Liège, Belgium
- Felister Gitonga, program officer for the End Harmful practices program of Equality Now, Kenya.
The experts shared their perspectives and experiences of the topic to lay the ground for, and channel, the discussion.
Felister Gitonga the program officer in the End Harmful practices program of Equality Now, spoke about her experience with Cross Border FGM in the East African Community, especially in Kenya. She shared a detailed description of cross border FGM in Kenya and Tanzania (Narok and Kajiado) amongst the Maasai community. According to her, “On the Tanzanian side there are Maasai who also practice FGM. There are Maasai (Kenyan & Tanzanian) who own land and homes in both countries as their farms are on the border line. The presence of a porous border, families, and homes on both sides has been one of the factors that have contributed to the increase of cross border FGM. The implementation of the Prohibition of FGM Act (2011) in Kenya has also contributed to the increase in cross border FGM”
She also underlined that “Collaboration between community-based organizations, community policing agents and law enforcement agencies has intensified enforcement of the law in Kenya with the authorities being very alert during cutting season. Therefore, community members opt to take children to Tanzania where the authorities are not very vigilant.”
Natalie Robi Tingo, an end FGM activist in Kenya, founder and Executive Director of the Msichana Empowerment in Kuria also shared another example of Cross border FGM between Kenya and Tanzania in the Kuria communities of Kuria Districts in Kenya as well as Serengeti and Tarime Districts, Musoma Urban and Rural Districts, and Bunda District of Tanzania.
Although there is no official data of the girls’ number who undergo FGM across the border, she reports that “in the recent years we have witnessed families planning visits, girls being ferried on Motorbikes during the night and early morning to undergo the cut, then brought back to Kenya”.
She emphasized that to eradicate Cross border FGM in our communities, stakeholders in these communities must coordinate efforts and interventions.
Joséphine Wouango an anthropologist, lecturer at the University of Liège, Belgium, shared her work as a researcher on Cross Border FGM in Burkina Faso and its neighboring countries. She expressed that the Cross Border issue is complex and there is no single solution that is effective, but it takes a combination of approaches. She agreed with the views of a lot of the members stating that “we have to choose approaches that are adapted to the specific context of each community/country/region. To do this, we need to know what factors are favourable and unfavourable to the abandonment of the cross-border practice of FGM in each context”.
According to the experts, there are two main factors that increase cross-border FGMs’:
- The presence of a same community but also of a family and/or home on both sides of a border
- Differences in legislation, law enforcement and controls between neighboring countries
In order to fight against this phenomenon, their main advice was to put in place better collaboration and cooperation between authorities and community-based organizations, integrating members of the community. They stressed that End-FGM strategies must be adapted to each specific context and composed of a combination of approaches and actors.