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Female Genital Mutilation in Kenya: are young men allies in social change programmes?

Reprod Health Matters. 2016 May;24(47):118-25. doi: 10.1016/j.rhm.2016.06.002.

Female Genital Mutilation in Kenya: are young men allies in social change programmes?

Brown E, Mwangi-Powell F, Jerotich M, le May V

ABSTRACT

The Girl Summit held in 2014 aimed to mobilise greater effort to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) within a generation, building on a global movement which viewed the practice as a severe form of violence against women and girls and a violation of their rights. The UN, among others, endorse “comprehensive” strategies to end FGM, including legalistic measures, social protection and social communications. FGM is a sensitive issue and difficult to research, and rapid ethnographic methods can use existing relations of trust within social networks to explore attitudes towards predominant social norms which posit FGM as a social necessity. This study used Participatory Ethnographic Evaluation Research (PEER) to understand young men’s (18-25 years) perceptions of FGM, demand for FGM among future spouses, and perceptions of efforts to end FGM in a small town in West Pokot, Kenya, where FGM is reported to be high (between 85% to 96%). Twelve PEER researchers were recruited, who conducted two interviews with their friends, generating a total of 72 narrative interviews. The majority of young men who viewed themselves as having a “modern” outlook and with aspirations to marry “educated” women were more likely not to support FGM. Our findings show that young men viewed themselves as valuable allies in ending FGM, but that voicing their opposition to the practice was often difficult. More efforts are needed by multi-stakeholders – campaigners, government and local leaders – to create an enabling environment to voice that opposition.

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