I had no idea what female circumcision involved
By Andrea Dijkstra
“My eldest daughter has been circumcised because it was just part of our culture, as well as a non-negotiable condition of marriage,” says Osupat, who quickly adds that he had no idea at the time what circumcision really involved. “The women never told us what they actually did during the circumcision ceremony. In Masai culture, circumcision is a woman’s thing.”
Typically, a girl’s circumcision would be completely arranged by the mother. The father would be informed beforehand that it was going to be done, but would be told nothing about the actual process, explains Osupat. He was absolutely appalled when he first saw videos of female circumcision during training sessions organised by the Yes I Do Alliance (YIDA). In the context of this Alliance, Plan International Netherlands, Rutgers, Amref Flying Doctors, CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality and KIT Royal Tropical Institute are collaborating to combat female circumcision, child marriages and teenage pregnancies.
“I was so shocked when I saw on the video what circumcision actually entails and the huge negative repercussions it has on our girls. More so because I immediately realised that my eldest daughter had already been circumcised.”
Our eyes have been opened
Osupat immediately decided that nobody would be allowed to do this to his two youngest daughters; they will certainly not have to undergo this harmful tradition. But as soon as he got home his two wives disagreed with him, driven by concern that their daughters would be unable to find a husband. Osupat assured them that it wouldn’t just be their daughters because the whole community was going to change. He insisted that both women should attend the YIDA training sessions and this changed their minds.
“I am so glad that I participated in the training sessions given by the YIDA. All those years we just did what our ancestors taught us, without appreciating the suffering and damage that it caused. But our eyes have now been opened and we’ve been shown how we can improve our lives and the lives of our daughters,” says Osupat.
completely eradicate female circumcision
“We have enjoyed extensive training and I have joined a group that goes around the village persuading people to stop female cutting', concedes Osupat. "There are still places where people refuse to stop female circumcision, but stepby-step we are succeeding in opening their eyes too.”
More self-assured about their bodies
Osupat is very pleased that during the training sessions both girls and boys learn about the changes taking place in their bodies, and, of course, about their rights. “In Masai culture, parents never talk to their children about things like this. But thanks to these training sessions our boys and girls are becoming more self-assured about the changes taking place in their bodies and this is making it easier for us to talk to our children about it.”
“In addition to all this, during the training sessions our children are also being taught much more about the dangers of female circumcision, child marriages and teenage pregnancies.”
Increasing equality between Masai men and women
Osupat also believes that the approach adopted by the Yes I Do Alliance is increasing the equality between Masai men and women. “In the past, the men decided everything and women were not allowed to have an opinion. But this is changing and nowadays a woman’s opinion is as important as a man’s.”
For more information about the programme go to: Yes I Do