Last year, in November 2015, Child.org were elected as SIGBI’s Federation Project partner 2016-19 with our new partner CIFORD in Meru, Kenya. The project is an agricultural training programme for women called Meru Women’s Garden Project.
The project launched on International Women’s Day in March 2016 and since then, Soroptimists from all over the UK and beyond, have been engaging in fundraising activities. In the six months since the launch, SIGBI have raised well over £9,000 for Child.org and MWGP with lots more activities planned.
In Kenya, we’ve been working closely with CIFORD to prepare for expanding the project over the next three years. Before the end of 2016 we’ll be working with two women’s groups, preparing them with training and tools for improved agricultural practice, providing them with the means to support themselves and their families.
In preparation for the women’s groups, we’ve used SIGBI funds to run a smaller-scale activity: in August 2016, we worked with CIFORD to host our first Alternative Rite of Passage (ARP) to female circumcision for 35 girls in Meru.
The weekend session was designed to inform girls about the realities of FGM to enable them to make informed decisions about their health and their future. What was particularly interesting for us was to meet the girls and to learn that many girls in this community choose to be circumcised, rather than being forced by their families like in many other communities where FGM is common.
In fact, out of the girls that attended the sessions, two out of three of them (67%) told us before the training began, that female circumcision is a necessary part of growing up. 31% of Meru women are circumcised, with over 50% of them being cut over the age of 15 years.
The purpose of the Alternative Rite of Passage weekend was to dispel myths around circumcision so that girls can make informed decisions about their health. When we asked the attendees again at the end of the weekend whether they believed that circumcision is a necessary part of growing up, the number that agreed had dropped to less than 6%. The number of girls that correctly answered that female circumcision can lead to complications in childbirth leapt by 32% (from 68% to 100%).
100% of the attendees of the ARP weekend told us that they would recommend it to their friends. They told us:
"We had good teachers who taught us good things which will transform our lifes in future"
"I was very happy for these weekend because we teach us circumcision not good. I was happy for that."
"I was happy to be taught on the dangers of circumsision"
"This weekend changed my life"
For more detail on what the weekend involved, read this great blog by Anna Donaldson, Charity Apprentice, who was based with CIFORD for four weeks from July 2016.
CIFORD have hosted many similar ARP sessions in the past - what was new this time was the introduction of planning techniques, surveys and reviews prior to and during the event. These tools enable us (Child.org and CIFORD) to assess the impact of the work and to iterate on the programme design with the intention of making each session more impactful than the last.
The weekend had many benefits; by using planning tools on a smaller scale project, we’re investing in the skills and processes at CIFORD, which can then be applied to all aspects of their work. We’re working closely with CIFORD founder and Executive Director, Margaret Ikiara, to develop the next programmatic steps and this month we’re redesigning and strengthening the agricultural training for women. We’re also planning new workshops for men and boys to ensure that lessons on female empowerment aren’t limited to women in the community.
It’s been a busy six months and it’s about to get busier! Thanks to all the Soroptimists that have been working hard to raise funds for Meru Women’s Garden Project. We’re already changing lives with your donations, and we’ve only just begun.
If you want to help us to support more women in this community, you can by hosting a Supper Club in October. For more details, visit thegreatbigsupperclub.org.