Drama unfolded at an anti-female genital mutilation (FGM) campaign forum on Tuesday when villagers attempted to stop the anti-cut crusaders from propagating their message in Tana River county Haroresa village.
Proponents of the retrogressive rite of passage opposed a move by members of the Dayaa Women Group from going on with a meeting to sensitise residents on the need to do away with the rite.
Led by the local Imam, a group of men engaged members of the women group in a verbal exchange, demanding that the meeting be called off as they (crusaders) did not have the mandate to ‘brainwash’ their wives and daughters.
The members of the women group were led by former Tana River Nominated Member of County Assembly (MCA) Saddia Sango Hussein, who is also the local ambassador for the Global Media Campaign to End FGM.
Trouble started immediately members of the women group, who had staged a sensitisation walk to the village, arrived when the men ganged up and refused to allow the group to propagate its message to their women.
The men said the rite was not only supported by religion but was also part of the community’s tradition and could have far reaching ramifications, including loss of lives, should it be done away with.
The visibly agitated men said they would not take part in abolishing a tradition and neither would they allow their families to be dragged into the discussion.
Tana River County Women Representative Rehema Hassan, who was the chief guest, after intense persuasion, managed to cool down the tempers, but this was after some walked out of the meeting in protest.
Addressing women at the end of the stand-off, Ms Hassan urged them to stop the practice as it was no longer tenable in a modern society. She said her community, the Ilwana, had stopped the practice after seeing that it was retrogressive.
“You all know that my community used to practice this rite more than you, the Wardei, but we later stopped it as we found it to be outdated,” she said adding, “This poses a great danger to womanhood and we should not continue with it blindly.”
On her part, Ms Hussein opened up on her predicament as a woman from the Wardei community, narrating how she went through the rite and the complications that followed even as men who had not walked out ridiculed her.
48-year old Gudho Hassan surprised those in attendance when she stood to oppose the cut, saying women had suffered in silence and it was time to completely abolish the practice.
“Our men are opposed to this campaign because they do not go through what we have to go through,” she said adding, “They have their moments of fun at night but it is us and the midwives who know how much pain we have to endure during childbirth.”
She challenged the men to be present when their wives were delivering babies to understand what why they should support the campaign against it.
“If you are real men, I challenge you to witness your women when delivering,” she charged adding, “You are only opposing this campaign just because you have never experienced the ordeal we have to go through both during the cut and when we are giving birth.”