Margo Day, friend of World Vision who took a one year leave of absence from her role at Microsoft to focus on World Vision’s work in Kenya, recently returned from her sixth trip to Kenya. We bring you her words and reactions from her journey.
The best word to describe this trip is ‘profound.’ Trip upon trip, the experiences and the evidence have compiled to form a story of transformation and hope. I hope my words below paint a picture for you to see in your ‘faith’s eye’ the remarkable thing you are a part of.
The first was during our visit to the Sook ADP in West Pokot. Sook is a place that was revered in a macabre sense in the Pokot culture – I heard it was known as the place where the ‘best’ Female Genital Mutilation ceremonies were held and they set the standard. Sook is in the mountains, beautiful, but rough and remote, with villages spread out over vast distances. World Vision established an ADP in Sook in 2009, and worked in the area for several years prior as a satellite outreach from the Marich Pass ADP when the advocacy work on Female Genital Mutilation was beginning. Part of the Child Protection through Education program funds World Vision staff to work with leaders so they can go back to their communities and educate and advocate against FGM and offer a new way forward with alternative rights of passage, as well as bring to life the power and promise of girls education.
We had the opportunity to meet with an area advisory council in the Tamugh village. There were 20 people in attendance who lived in 14 separate villages, each walking long distances to meet with us. This council was made up of 2/3 men, 1/3 women, a thrilling mix – both men AND women are leading the cultural change. The look of resolve on their faces were clear. Just as Ghandi said “Be the change you want to see in this world” – these people are doing just that. The leader of this council is an Assistant Chief and he touched me deeply. This man really cares about the girls in his community and fully acknowledges that nothing good comes from FGM. Now he is on a mission to ensure all in his area understands what he understands, and change their attitudes and practices as a result. Each person in the council spoke to us, sharing their very personal commitment to drive change and why. They thanked us for resourcing World Vision to provide the people, education, a meeting place with table and chairs, and a way to bring forward cases where girls were in danger of undergoing the cut. Most recently, because of this escalation model, one girl was rescued from harm. Two women in the council made a lasting impression on me. The first is a current midwife. She is an older woman and shared that her daughters were circumcised years ago before she knew any other way. I appreciated the solemnity and honesty of the remark. Now, as a midwife, she told of ‘seeing too much’ … babies stuck in the birth canal because the mother’s scar tissue could not tear wide enough to allow for a suitable opening, resulting in both mother and child dying. “Too much blood, too many long labors.” Another woman had a suckling baby, just one month old. As she was feeding her daughter, I asked why she was part of the advisory council and what she hoped for her child. She replied, so her daughter could be educated and have a better life. Wow. And, these people are volunteers. They still have to feed and provide for their families, but are going far above and beyond because this is so important – quite literally at times, life or death important. The importance of these councils and the people in them cannot be overstated.
Change has dawned in Sook and the roots of change are becoming well established.