female genital cutting, female genital mutation, female circumcision, FGC, FGM, women's health, women's empowerment, human rights, program development, community engagement, Marsabit County, Kenya
Introduction: The practice of female genital cutting (FGC) continues in certain parts around the globe. Marsabit County, Kenya has a high prevalence of FGC, despite declines in Kenya overall. Specific risk factors for FGC include low education and literacy levels, poverty, living in rural areas, and the cultural influence of marriage and marriageability. FGC occurs in different proportions, ranging from minor to major alterations of female genitalia, with variation depending on culture and location.
Discussion: FGC can result in a number of harmful physical and psychological outcomes, such as pain, bleeding, infection, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and obstetrical problems, including postpartum hemorrhage—a major contributor to maternal mortality. FGC may also have some positive consequences, including embracing a female’s gender and ethnic identity, and promoting marriageability.
When developing and implementing programs to reduce the practice of FGC, it is important to involve local women, men, and community members in order to respect women and culture and to promote human rights within community-led cultural change. This approach creates a more sustainable platform for success and can naturally lead to women’s empowerment and self-sufficiency.
Public Health Implications: FGC negatively impacts communities such as Marsabit County in a number of ways. By promoting community abandonment of FGC based on human rights, health risks, and community empowerment, programs can effectively reduce both global rates and negative outcomes of the practice. Not only can this increase women’s self-sufficiency and community health, it can also reduce obstetrical complications, maternal mortality, and other physical and psychological concerns.