Mzee Nyagusuka Magige, the chairman of larger Kuria Clan of Elders
When renowned traditional cutter, 84 year old Mama Paulina Ngariba Robi was jailed for 7 years in 2014, the Kuria Community went into a cutting spree to revenge the Courts decision to jail the only cutter in Kuria East Migori County.
Young men mobilized their friends across the sub-county to ensure the government couldn’t block their most celebrated and valued cultural practice then from happening. At the time FGM had been banned by the government through the law that was enacted in 2009 but the Kuria community was still adamant.
We visit Mrs. Paulina at her home in Nyabasi Location, Kegonga Division of Kuria East Sub-County, at first she was hesitant to talk to us due to the phobia of police. To her any stranger that gets into her compound reminds her of the harrowing experience that she underwent while at the Migori GK Prison after being handed a 7 year jail term by the then Kehancha Principal Magistrate Mr. Charles Mwaniki Kamau who convicted the elderly mama without the option of a fine.
The court heard that the elderly woman conspired with some close relatives of the 12-year-old girl to perform the traditional rite without the consent of the parents. The magistrate ruled that the offence was serious and needed a deterrent sentence to protect minors.
Mrs. Ngariba was released in 2018 and she has vowed never to subject girls to FGM. She has become a champion against FGM and now jealously protects her granddaughter against practice.
The fight against FGM in Kuria has been supported by other survivors of FGM who went through FGM against their wish either forcefully or ignorantly because they didn’t understand its effects on the victims.
Ms. Hellen Mukira for instance who went through the cut a few years ago regrets undergoing it and has vowed to relentlessly protect her family against FGM
“I feel so bad because I always wish that I knew earlier that FGM is bad I couldn’t have gone for it and if there was a place that I could demand for my right, I would be the first one to do that” Says Hellen.
How I became a cutter
The now reformed cutter opens up to Mtoto News that one morning on waking up she felt unwell. The sickness, she says, went on for about 2 years without her finding proper medication despite visiting several hospitals.
“I was not able to walk, I was just sitting down, and I kept asking myself what’s wrong?”
In the third year Mrs. Ngariba opted to see a witch Doctor. On the first visit the witchdoctor told her she wasn’t sick, he instead informed her that the spirit of cutting girls was in her and that she would be fine if she started performing FGM on girls.
“When the cutting season came I went to the custodians of the Kuria culture and shared my predicaments and that is how they gave me the power to cut girls and I got well after a short while”.
Cut over 500 girls every year for over 10 years
What began as a cure to Mrs. Ngariba’s illness turned to be a killer to thousands of dreams of young girls in the entire Kuria Community leading to the cutting of about 10,000 girls.
“I used to cut over 500 girls because in the entire Kuria I was the only cutter until when another cutter was brought”. She says
Mzee Nyagusuka Magige, the chairman of larger Kuria Clan of Elders says when Mama Paulina Robi Ngariba was jailed, that year saw a lot of girls getting cut including women of up to the ages of 80 years and girls of up to 10 years. He says in the early days FGM was very important in the Kuria Community, but due to the current developments the community is changing its ways.
For about eight years Mzee Nyagusuka Magige has been the chairman of Kuria Clan of Elders, one of his roles being overseeing cultural activities of the Kuria community. As the overseer of the cultural activities of the entire community, he says the elders in 2018 made a declaration to stop FGM. The declaration was followed by traditional ceremonies to appease the gods of which the ceremony was fully sponsored by the government. However, he says their major challenge has been young people who still insist on getting cut, hence the need to be on the watch.
“Our biggest challenge now is to get the young generation to understand the dangers of FGM because for the older generation they understand this thing is harmful”. “As leaders here we will need to walk around and create awareness in September and October because there might be FGM in December” Some of them haven’t heard much about FGM but the government’s intervention is bearing fruits”
He says they have been going around schools to spread Anti FGM messages to both boys and girls emphasizing that this is a cultural practice that no longer benefits the community. Radio Togotane meaning bringing souls, voice and minds together, has also been instrumental in spreading the anti FGM message to the communities in Kuria.
“As of now most of the elders because we appeased our gods and they accepted not to disturb. We went to our mountain and slaughtered several goats to appease our gods and now they are happy and they have allowed us to stop FGM” he says
Mr Magige also credits inter-marriages for having played a key role in fighting FGM where men from Kuria started marrying women from other communities they saw no need to cut girls.
For now the elders have agreed to abandon FGM because since we did our rituals our gods stopped disturbing cutters. We slaughtered goats there and begged them to allow us to take our girls to school.
Mzee Magige has taken the responsibility of fighting FGM upon himself and warns that if he sees any of his clan members cutting girls he will personally report them Police to arrest them.