Kajiado Maasai have been urged to discard traditions that stand in the way of implementing the UN’s sustainable development goals on gender equality.
Anti-female genital mutilation activist Dorcus Parit claimed that while other parts of the country are striving to balance gender equality, the community is still entangled with early childhood marriages and female cut.
Parit, who is the founder and director at Hope Beyond Foundation that has rescued more than 500 young girls from early marriages and helped them back to school, she has been tagged as “enemy of Maasai cultural values” because of her resistance.
Speaking on Monday evening in Enkongu, Eselenkei location of Mashuuru sub-county, during the many engagements with members of the community, said existing laws on FGM and child marriages are clearly valid.
“The government doesn’t care whether it’s a tradition or not. As long as it brings negative effects to a child, legal actions must be taken and justice served to victims of proponents of FGM and those marrying off their children at a tender age,” said Parit.
The Hope Beyond Foundation boss was accompanied by senior police officers from Loitokitok and the area County Assistant County Commissioner, Boniface Kirema, who also addressed the participants that included ambassadors of Nyumba Kumi Initiative, local chiefs, and elders.
Kirema told the residents of Eselenkei; “The government will take actions on those perpetuating and promoting injurious cultures that stand against her will to ensure every child gets access to education, including the neighbours who fail to report such cases.”
He explained that the government has come up with policies that ensure every child is protected from harmful practices and that every child is entitled to an education.
While the world has achieved progress towards gender equality and women’s empowerment under the Millennium Development Goals (including equal access to primary education between girls and boys), women and girls continue to suffer discrimination and violence in every part of the world.
Gender equality, Parit said, is not only a fundamental human right but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.
“Unfortunately, at the current time, 1 in 5 women and girls between the ages of 15-49 have reported experiencing physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner within a 12-month period and 49 countries currently have no laws protecting women from domestic violence,” says a UN report on Sustainable Development Goal 5.
It further says that progress is occurring regarding harmful practices such as child marriage and FGM, which has declined by 30 per cent in the past decade, but there is still much work to be done to completely eliminate such practices.
“Providing women and girls with equal access to education, health care, decent work, and representation in political and economic decision-making processes will fuel sustainable economies and benefit societies and humanity at large,’ says the report.
The Hope Beyond Foundation boss said implementing new legal frameworks regarding female equality in the workplace and the eradication of harmful practices targeted at women is crucial to ending the gender-based discrimination prevalent in many countries around the world.
The UN report says, globally, 750 million women and girls were married before the age of 18 and at least 200 million women and girls in 30 countries have undergone FGM.
It further says the rates of girls, who range between 15-19 years old, and who are subjected to FGM in the 30 countries where the practice is concentrated have dropped from 1 in 2 girls in 2000 to 1 in 3 girls by 2017.
The EU and the UN are currently embarking on a new global, multi-year initiative focused on eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls.
The initiative is so named as it brings focused attention to the issue, moving it into the spotlight and placing it at the centre of efforts to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment, in line with the 2030 agenda for sustainable development.
The UN report says initial investment in the order of Sh56, 605,529,500.00 (EUR 500 million) will be made, with the EU as the main contributor.
Other donors and partners will be invited to join the initiative to broaden its reach and scope.
The modality for the delivery will be a UN multi-stakeholder trust fund office, with the support of core agencies – UNDP, UNFPA, and UN Women, and overseen by the executive office of the UN Secretary-General, says the report.
Parit thanked the provincial administration department in the Office of the President for continued support in the fight against demeaning practices that have shamed Maasai woman in the 21st century.
“While other tribes in the country are struggling to send their daughters to school, we in Kajiado are digging their graves while they are at a tender age of ten. This is killing our generation,” Parit told the community in Eselenkei.
She chose the area, she says, because it is the bedrock of such negative activities among the Kajiado Maasai.