Founded and headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, Amref Health Africa is Africa's leading health charity. Amref works primarily with women and girls to help them secure their right to health and break the cycle of poverty. For decades, the charity has facilitated community-led health improvements across Africa, working to strengthen health systems, train health workers, and improve access to vital care and services.
With help from the players of People's Postcode Lottery, Amref is working to end the practice of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) across Africa.
Fighting To End FGM/C
FGM/C, sometimes referred to as "the cut", inflicts serious physical and psychological harm, and is linked to child marriage, teenage pregnancy, and school dropouts. In many communities, girls endure "the cut" as a rite of passage into womanhood, where it is viewed as a precursor to marriage and pregnancy. This leaves girls with no choice but to drop out of school, robbing them of the chance to pursue their education and fulfil their dreams.
Amref Health Africa partners with FGM/C-practising communities to support girls in learning more about their sexual health and rights. In 2009, Amref began working with Maasai communities in Kenya and Tanzania to develop a Community-Led Alternative Rite of Passage (CL-ARP) ceremony, which celebrates the cultural tradition of a girl's transition into womanhood, without the physical or psychological damage of "the cut". To date, 20,000 girls in Kenya and Tanzania have graduated from a CL-ARP ceremony and been able to continue their education.
Centre Of Excellence
In 2018, support from players of People's Postcode Lottery helped Amref establish its End FGM/C Centre of Excellence. The centre provides strategic leadership and coordination of Amref's End FGM/C work across five countries: Kenya, Tanzania, Senegal, Ethiopia and Uganda.
By training local ambassadors from practising communities to advocate for the abandonment of FGM/C, the Centre is changing attitudes towards the practice, which are often rooted in long-held social gender norms and beliefs. Amref works closely with the whole community, engaging with the girls themselves, their families, their teachers and community leaders, as well as boys and young men, to ensure that change is sustainable.
Dr Tammary Esho, Director of Amref Health Africa's End FGM/C Centre of Excellence, says, "The reasons FGM/C is practised vary from one community to the next.
"It's important to first understand what FGM/C means to the community in question. We create the conditions in which people feel comfortable talking about gender equality, bodily autonomy, and sexual and reproductive health, and we go from there."
An independent evaluation conducted in 2020 showed that between 2009 and 2019, Amref's Community-Led Alternative Rites of Passage model resulted in a 24.2% decrease in the practice of FGM/C in Kajiado County, Kenya. It led to an increase in the number of years of schooling girls completed, and to a reduction in child, early and forced marriage and teenage pregnancy.
Raising Community Awareness
Following the outbreak of COVID-19 in March 2020, rates of FGM/C have risen sharply within practising communities. School closures mean girls are no longer protected by the school network, allowing their families to pass them through "the cut" without repercussions. In response, Amref Health Africa has urgently adapted its End FGM/C programmes, training additional community ambassadors and carrying out extensive community awareness activities.
Amref's vision is of a world where everyone, including the most marginalised people and communities, can exercise their human right to health. Throughout 2021, the charity will continue to advocate for the rights of women and girls, while being supported by players of People's Postcode Lottery. Nice Leng'ete, Amref's Global End FGM/C Ambassador, says, "My hope is to see every girl become the woman of her dreams."
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