smiling girls

Study on impact of Amref-led programme reveals decline in early child marriage and teenage pregnancy, and increase in schooling years as communities shun practice

Nairobi, December 10, 2020: The Community-Led Alternative Rites of Passage (CL-ARP) Model instituted by Amref Health Africa to address Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) in Kenya has contributed to a 24% decline in the prevalence of the practice over the past decade in Kajiado County. CL-ARP, which has been implemented by Amref in Kajiado County since 2009, seeks to retain the cultural rituals and celebrations around the transition to womanhood while encouraging communities to end FGM/C and embrace alternative rites of passage (ARP) that do not include the cut.

A study titled Impact of Community-Led Alternative Rites of Passage on Eradication of FGM/C in Kajiado County, Kenya carried out to assess the effectiveness of the CL-ARP approach, revealed that the model has contributed to a 24% decline in FGM/C, from 80.8% before its roll-out to 56.6% in 2019. The model has also led to a four-fold reduction in child marriage rates from 1.2% to -6.1%, and consequently an increase in schooling years, with girls who previously attended school for only 3.1 years now staying in school for 5.6 years.

‘‘We believe in community-led, community-driven cultural alternatives to FGM/C that don’t subject girls to any form of cutting or force them to become child brides or teenage mothers, and those that enable them to continue their education,’’ said Dr. Meshack Ndirangu, Country Director, Amref Health Africa in Kenya while speaking during the release of the study in Nairobi.

‘‘We have been championing an end to FGM/C to promote empowerment of girls and women. While we recognize the cultural significance of the practice especially among pastoral communities, we must also acknowledge that it poses significant health risks, endangers the lives of girls and women and infringes on their human rights. In light of this, Amref is working closely with communities to educate them on the health and socio-economic risks of FGM/C, and to co-create culturally relevant alternatives that still allow for the celebration of this milestone – the transition from childhood to womanhood – while protecting girls and women,’’ he added.

FGM/C prevalence nationally in Kenya stands at 27% according to the latest Kenya Demographics Health Survey (KDHS, 2014). Although there has been a decline over the years the practice is still high in many pastoral communities, exposing young girls to early marriage and teenage pregnancy, which forces them to drop out of school.

While assessing the impact of CL-ARP on ending the practice, Amref also investigated the effect of COVID-19 on FGM/C and Child Early and Forced Marriage (CEFM) in Kenya through a study called “The Effects of COVID-19 Pandemic on FGM/C and Child, Early and Forced Marriages in Kenya”. The study revealed that before COVID-19, majority of the respondents perceived that cases of FGM/C (63%) and CEFM (62%) were decreasing in Kajiado, Samburu and Marsabit counties. In contrast, during COVID-19, most of the study respondents perceived that the pandemic has led to an increase in both FGM/C (55%) and CEFM (64%) cases. The most common reason given for the increasing number of FGM/C cases was closure of schools (50%), while economic losses/loss of income (39%) was the most common reason given for perceived increase in CEFM cases during COVID-19.

‘‘Amref is committed to a future without FGM/C and continues to contribute towards efforts to end the practice by 2030. We envision a continent free of FGM/C, where girls are empowered to continue their education and pursue their dreams. So far, over 20,000 girls have transitioned into womanhood through ARP ceremonies that we have organized in Kenya and Tanzania,’’ said Dr. Tammary Esho, Director of the Amref End FGM/C Centre of Excellence.

“The Amref End FGM/C Centre of Excellence coordinates End FGM/C programming and research across five countries including Tanzania, Senegal, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda, through initiating and catalyzing multi-sectoral action, advocacy, collaboration and partnerships to strengthen global commitments to help accelerate FGM/C abandonment in Africa,” said Dr. Esho.

While an analysis of the perceptions, attitudes and practices of community stakeholders in relation to FGM/C practices confirms that communities in Kajiado County have positively embraced Alternative Rites of Passage, which has also shown demonstrable impact in the lives of its beneficiaries and their families, there remain significant barriers to the CL-ARP intervention’s total effectiveness. These include resistance to cultural change by elders, stigma among uncut girls and women, peer pressure among girls to undergo the cut, and an increase in secret cross-border FGM/C.

The impact study recommends, among other things: (1) the scaled-up implementation of the CL-ARP model, whose success lies in sustained engagement of community leaders, local stakeholders and law enforcement agencies including border authorities; and, (2) a multi-stakeholder approach focused on working with communities to drive behaviour change. It also proposes an update of the CL-ARP model to enhance its effectiveness by strengthening engagement of men and boys as well as aspects of cross-border programming and policy to further accelerate FGM/C abandonment.

The launch of this study occurs concurrently with the launch of three other studies led by Amref: COVID-19 Response Governance Mapping InitiativeImpact of COVID-19 on HIV/AIDS Programming in Kenya and Lived Experiences of Youth During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Implications for Policy and Program Considerations in Kenya.


Notes to Editors

About Amref Health Africa

Amref Health Africa, headquartered in Kenya, is the largest Africa-based International Non-Governmental Organization (INGO). With a focus on increasing sustainable health access, Amref runs programmes in over 35 countries in Africa, with lessons learnt over 60 years of engagement with governments, communities and partners. Amref Health Africa also engages in programme development, fundraising, partnership, advocacy, monitoring and evaluation, and has offices in Europe and North America as well as subsidiaries: Amref Flying DoctorsAmref Enterprises and the Amref International University.

For more information contact:

Elizabeth (Lizz) Ntonjira
Global Communication Director
Amref Health Africa
Email: [email protected]

Jennifer Foulds
Communications Director, Canada
Amref Health Africa
Cell: 647-771-5815