#022: Doing It Wrong

  • Doing It Wrong 

In Narok County (southwest Kenya), schoolgirls will be subject to pregnancy and female genital mutilation (FGM) tests once the school term resumes in January.

Despite the outlawing of FGM, Narok still has the highest rates of the awful practice in Kenya. George Natembeya, the Narok County Commissioner, intends for the FGM tests to be used to crack down on the practice, promising to arrest and prosecute the parents of girls who have been found to be cut. The pregnancy tests are supposedly also necessary, as girls who have been cut "feel mature enough to have sex".

If I assume the most positive intent, I can squint heavily and perhaps see where Natembeya is coming from. However, this is doing it wrong. Girls' bodies are not playgrounds for pillars of authority (whether parents or government) to express their power. These sorts of forced tests are at best invasive, on average demeaning, and at worst, abusive. Narok County ought to be focused on providing schoolgirls with a safe and trusting academic environments where they can report FGM or ask for pregnancy tests, if they feel they are at risk.

Read for:  "[Natembeya] further said that girls found to have undergone the cut will be forced to record statements with police, while those who get pregnant will reveal the identities of the men responsible."


  • Clearing the Backlog

In a remarkable effort to clear the backlog of gender-violence cases, Ugandan courts are now holding special sessions, dedicated to hearing over 1,000 cases by the end of the year. Over 60% of court cases in Uganda are related to gender violence, sexual or domestic in nature. 

Within three weeks of this pilot, 350 cases were heard across 11 districts; 3,704 defilement cases are still pending in the Ugandan courts (4,651 cases were taken to court in the past year). The special sessions were piloted by the Uganda Association of Women Lawyers and Action Aid, with funding provided by Norway via UNFPA.

Read for:  "The Ugandan police crime reported 14,985 defilement (sexual assault on a person under 18) and 1,335 rape cases last year. Of the rape cases alone, just 396  were taken to court, six ended in conviction and 375 are still pending."


-Women's Advancement Deeply: The Informal Bank that Powers Kenya’s Poorest Women 
-UNFPA East & Southern Africa: Family Planning is A Development Issue
-Journal of Adolescent Health: Who Meets the Contraceptive Needs of Young Women in Sub-Saharan Africa?

  • The Convert 

If you need me on December 28th, I'll be at the Young Vic in London, watching Danai Gurira's play "The Convert". Set in 1896 Rhodesia (modern-day Zimbabwe), the play follows a young black girl who moves into a white Roman Catholic family household to escape an arranged marriage; it masterfully explores themes of colonialism, catholicism and cultural identity.

The play stars Black Panther's Letitia Wright, and Paapa Essiedu of RSC Hamlet. With the Evening Standard's review: "A skillful look at the turbulence of colonialism", I bought stage-side tickets.

Read for:  "It’s 1896 in what is modern day Zimbabwe and Jekesai, a young woman fleeing forced marriage finds herself working for devout Catholic priest, Chilford. He relishes the opportunity to mould his new convert but Jekesai’s salvation has a price."


  • The Story of Naomi 

Kenyan human rights activist, Naomi Barasa recently won the first Sir Henry Brooke Award for Human Rights Defenders. Born in Korogocho, an informal settlement in Kenya,  Naomi has been a grassroots organizer and activist for female rights, social equality and housing. The Sir Henry Brooke award was presented at the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom and it aims to honor those who encapsulate selflessness, courage and commitment to seeking justice for the oppressed and the marginalized.

Watch for:  "For many years, I cried and cried and cried; but at 17, I decided I've cried enough. And I decided, it is time to organize, then I started organizing."


Nneoma Nwankwo