Where Do Women Stand in Social Movements?: Anti-Female Genital Cutting Movement in Kenya after the FGM Prohibition Act

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 11:30
Oral Presentation
YoungEun NAM, Purdue University, USA
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a widely-practiced form of gender-based violence in 28 countries across Africa, with considerable variation in prevalence by country. Kenya provides a fruitful context for examining the success of the local anti-FGM movement and could provide a template for other transnational women’s movements. The intersectional collaboration of both local and international movements in Kenya led to enactment of the “Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act” in 2011. The Kenyan government was also the first to establish a semi-autonomous agency, “The Anti-FGM Board,” to advocate against FGM while empowering women.

However, the challenge remains with local mobilization. Local women are exposed to contradictory messages. Uncircumcised women encounter “slut-shaming” from community elders, whereas circumcised women encounter “guilt-shaming” from activists. In progressing anti-FGM movement, it tends to generate negative messages on FGM excluding the survivors’ presence. The young girls who experienced FGM become the victims of FGM profiling, especially in school environment. Although most of girls experience FGM in primary schools, due to their early marriage, and drop-out rates, they become minority in secondary schools, becoming the “outcast.” On the other hand, local female activists, who were “outcasts” because of not experiencing FGM in primary school, become the majority in secondary school. Peer pressure functions in multifaceted level on both FGM survivors and runaways.

The research analyzes data from 20 in-depth interviews conducted with members of the Kuria, Kalenjin, and Maasai tribes in Kenya in 2017. These interviews with eight FGM survivors, ten runaways, and two FGM practitioners, explore women’s reactions to the local anti-FGM movement and national policy. How can we incorporate FGM survivors in the anti-FGM discourse? I investigate feminist leadership influencing movements, and incorporating subjects oriented discourse for producing effective strategies of anti-FGM movement.