In many cultures, FGM — also known as cutting — symbolizes the transition from girlhood to womanhood and is a valued traditional practice done on girls as young as 10 (in some places, on girls even younger). In areas of Kenya, it’s traditionally seen as a precursor to child marriage, but both FGM and child marriage can have devastating physical and psychological effects for girls.
At least 200 million women and girls alive today have been subjected to FGM, including 4 million in Kenya alone. And 650 million were married before their 18th birthday.
In some Kenyan cultures, tradition equates FGM with womanhood, no matter a girl’s age. A daughter’s worth can be tied to her bride price, money that can be the difference between survival and starvation for families living in poverty.
In Samburu County, 86% of women ages 15 to 49 have undergone FGM, and 77% were cut to become eligible for marriage. Only about one in 10 girls is enrolled in secondary school here.
Turning the tide on child marriage and FGM requires a multi-sector approach to create lasting change. Following INSPIRE — the WHO’s evidence-based strategies for best practices in child protection work — the Kenya Big Dream changes social norms harmful to children, strengthens household economic conditions to reduce financial incentives for child marriage, promotes education and life skills training for girls, and more.
TRADITION EQUATES THE CUT WITH WOMANHOOD but through our work… trusted faith leaders are mobilized to strengthen their communities by leading child protection efforts, including Alternative Rites of Passage ceremonies to replace FGM.
FAMILIES NEED A DAUGHTER’S BRIDE PRICE but through our work…families are economically empowered to become resilient and financially stable, so they can prioritize girls’ worthiness as they support community-wide laws and cultural mindset shifts against FGM and child marriage.
GIRLS’ EDUCATION ISN’T PRIORITIZED but through our work… children are empowered through education, giving boys and girls alike the chance to know their potential for changing their societies.
World Vision's child protection work in Kenya has resulted in fewer children experiencing violence and abuse. From 2016 to 2019, the number of children among those surveyed in our project areas in Kenya who said they experienced violence and abuse went from 71% to 37%, while youth who said they were "thriving" in life more than doubled.
This dream is big, but it’s achievable within our lifetimes. In over 10 years of work in Kenya, we’ve seen the acceptance of FGM and child marriage plummet. And girls’ secondary school enrollment rates have skyrocketed — in an area where they were once nearly zero. “In 1999, the prevalence rate of FGM was over 95% in Chepareria area of West Pokot. Today, it’s less than 10%,” explains Moses Chepkonga, the Kenya Big Dream program manager.
Over more than 10 years, nearly 5,000 girls and boys have taken part in Alternative Rites of Passage ceremonies, replacing FGM with a week-long event for girls and boys to celebrate their coming of age within the community.
In West Pokot and Baringo, 608,085 people have been empowered with access to child protection activities since 2020.
In 2021 alone, 42 traditional FGM circumcisers abandoned their cutting tools and embraced different values.
In a 2015 study, more than nine in 10 people surveyed in West Pokot agreed that most people would like to see the practice of FGM ended.
Rates of violence and abuse against children in West Pokot where World Vision works dropped from 71% in 2016 to 37% in 2019.
We are blessed to partner with hundreds of Christian philanthropists and couldn’t do this work without them. And we’re able to reach more people because of our highly collaborative local and global partnerships within private and public sectors.
“I met a group of 34 young girls at a rescue center in West Pokot, Kenya. God placed a fire in my heart for those girls...and that trip proved to be the beginning of an incredible transformation...for the girls, for their community, and for me.”
“I’ve seen firsthand that when young women’s lives are transformed, they in turn become powerful agents of change in their communities.”