Kenya first passed a law to ban the practice of female genital mutilation and cutting (FGM/C) in 1999 and then an additional law was passed in 2009, prohibiting the practice in hospitals. In 2011, a third law was passed, further banning the practice. That final law was called the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act 2011. However the women in that East African country continue to struggle with the practice against girls in certain areas of Kenya.
According to reports, the percentage of girls experiencing FGM/C in Kenya has reduced in recent years, especially compared to the far higher percentage rates of its neighbors, Ethiopia and Somalia. In spite of that reported reduction, there is still a great deal of work to be done in that country toward total eradication.
In some parts of Southern Kenya, most women actually believe that they are not successful unless they have experienced FGM/C. The Maasai people believe that it is only after undergoing FGM/C, that a girl is considered to be a woman. Therefore educational institutions have focused on educating girls, not only in academics, but in moving away from early child marriage and undergoing FGM/C. According to reports, the approach in education has had encouraging success. As a result, anti-FGM campaigns placing emphasis on education and honesty in Kenya have helped to end the practice in some of their larger cities and communities.
In addition to Southern Kenya, the Maasai people live in parts of Tanzania. They are known to be tall and fierce warriors. They have also been known for the practice of female genital mutilation and cutting, as well as early child marriage. Even though many of the Maasai people are highly educated, they tend to hold onto their cultural traditions. Therefore FGM/C continues to be prevalent in Kenya.
In the last week and a half Kenya became a busy spot for medical personnel. The renowned U.S. Obstetrician and Gynecologist Surgeon, Dr. Marci Bowers directed a team of physicians in Nairobi in restorative surgery on post-FGM women. Dr. Bowers wrote, “Today, the first four restorative surgeries were performed at the Mama Lucy Hospital, the first ever in Kenya.” According to Dr. Bowers, the Mama Lucy Hospital, a meager public hospital in the poorest region of Nairobi, was chosen; because Dr. Abdullahi Adan believes restoration should not be solely for the rich and fortunate but should be accessible to all people of any means.
Dr. Abdullahi Adan is a plastic surgeon, who invited Dr. Bowers and her team to travel to Kenya and teach them the “Foldes Technique” of restorative surgery. Dr. Pierre Foldes originally developed the restorative technique many years before. Dr. Bowers was trained by Dr. Foldes to perform the restorative technique. Impressed by Dr. Adan, Dr. Bowers speaks of him as “Young, tall and strikingly good looking. He is highly educated and articulate.” Dr. Adan was raised in a rural community; he became interested in FGM/C because both his aunt and sister had experienced FGM/C. Adan had been angry about what had happened to his sister and aunt. He decided to do something about it. He became interested in restorative surgery after many of his patients had inquired if there was anything that could be done to alleviate the daily pain as a result of FGM/C. Dr. Bowers said, “He came upon the work of Dr. Foldes and myself and reached out a year ago. His group here has the support of the President of Kenya, but remains strategically apolitical.”
Dr. Bowers reported that seven surgeons witnessed the surgeries and they were instructed during the two full weeks of training; including five obstetricians and gynecologists and a general surgeon, in addition to Dr. Adan. She wrote, “Already we have had inquiries from neighboring countries such as Tanzania and Ethiopia and it is hoped that Nairobi will become a regional center for teaching the restorative surgery to doctors from all around Africa.” Dr. Bowers continued, “They have also met with anti-FGM groups and the United Nations, but have not received any funding for the restorative project; ironically because anti-FGM groups were worried that restorative causes would divert funding from their own organizations.”
Dr. Bowers explained, “Dr. Adan is sensitive to this issue, adding that restoration is and should be only a small compliment to what is being done on the anti-FGM side, and I agree. Thus, this project for the nearly forty women undergoing restoration is funded by Dr. Adan, myself and support from the two hospitals. Prior to initiating surgeries, we held an educational conference at Mama Lucy Hospital, where several media were in attendance.
Bowers declared great success with the surgeries, most especially with both the staff and patients alike. Speaking of the staff and patients, she added, “They are glowing with enthusiasm.” This is exciting news for post-FGM women in Kenya and other parts of Africa. They can now have access to restorative surgery without having to leave the continent.
Please send questions and comments about this article to firstname.lastname@example.org. Global Woman Newsletter will have a full interview and story with Marci Dr. Bowers upon her return to the U.S.