In Kenya, 27% of women and girls undergo Female Genital Mutilation, or FGM (Unicef, 2015). FGM is a cultural practice, where the female clitoris is cut off or mutilated, usually conducted and a public ritual that can cause serious emotional trauma for a young woman. According to the United Nations Interagency Statement on Eliminating FGM, it is a violation of human rights.
"Seen from a human rights perspective, the practice reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. Female genital mutilation is nearly always carried out on minors and is therefore a violation of the rights of the child. The practice also violates the rights to health, security and physical integrity of the person, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and the right to life when the procedure results in death." -United Nations
Catholic sisters have played a significant role in changing the local culture while helping girls who are running away from FGM and underage marriage. At Marie Adelaide Center in Enkang O’Selenken, women religious help Masai girls build different futures under the leadership of Directress Sr. Caroline Kimani, Society of the Daughters of the Heart of Mary (DHM).
At the center, girls can be seen by a medical doctor and have access to guidance and counseling services. They also receive an education and learn different skills like bead-working.
Sr. Caroline says,
"We bring them from that situation where they had lost their childhood, they had lost the value of themselves to be married off. But we tell them, no, it's not the end of their life."
Sr. Caroline is an alumna of ASEC's Sisters Leadership Development Initiative (SLDI) program, where learned valuable skills. She says the training changed her perspective and helped her become a better leader. She says,
"I thought the leader is just, you lead and tell people what to do, but I came to be challenged by our leadership trainer, who said, you lead from the front, and you empower the people you are leading. That's something that got stuck in my mind, so when I got here, that's what I started now, giving to my staff members."
Sr. Caroline also learned technology, administration and finance skills to use in her ministry work and the fight against FGM.
Watch the video produced by the USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture (CRCC).