#ThroughHerEyes is a monthly column dedicated to sharing the stories and perspectives of under-represented women. Each month, photographers from the Lensational network, who come from low-income communities across Asia and Africa, share their work and perspective on a topic. Lensational is a youth-led non-profit training the new generation of female photographers & videographers from the margins. Azickia is proud to partner with their movement and contribute by sharing the stories of the women they support.
A Photo Essay by Kiraiyan Katamboi – introduced and edited by Lydia W Kibandi
Female genital mutilation (FGM) has persisted as one of the major challenges facing girls and young women in native communities in Kenya, and especially in nomadic pastoralists communities. This is despite the government’s efforts to put an end to the practice, including a law implemented in 2011 banning and penalizing. In the past decade, many communities and NGOs have risen up as a result, to fight against these harmful practices affecting the girl child. The bigger question still lurking, however, is why community buy-in still seems to be a challenge.
Could it be a case of communities not feeling that they own the solutions?
In the small village of Esiteti, just south of the Amboseli National Park in Kenya, Kiraiyan Katamboi is one of the rare voices rising up against female genital mutilation. She is one of the leaders in this village. As one who formerly practiced and advocated for the custom, she understands the detailed intricacies that have long woven the Maasai culture she is a native of. They have made it tough to overcome the tradition.
Understanding that everyone especially her community has a role in adopting an alternative to FGM, Kiraiyan approaches the matter with her heart on sleeve. She is doing this by ensuring that the culture of celebrating milestones such as the entry into womanhood are not eroded, but simply done in a safe context.
This is Kiraiyan’s story of how she is leading in adopting a new rite of passage.
Today Penina is 24, she will be ushered into womanhood, in a ceremony lasting two days, comprised of several tests of responsibility and celebration. Until recently, this ceremony would have been different involving a cut and lasting for up to a week if not longer as the young lady was given time to recover.