Fighting a practice that is deep rooted in a society’s tradition requires cooperation with all people of influence in their communities. In the fight against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) among the Pokot tribe where girls are circumcised as a rite of passage to woman hood, the need to blend with existing mobilization structures is important.
Christopher Akuletum is a brave man who has courageously challenged his people’s custom through his pastoral work ever since he volunteered with the National Association of Women Organizations in Uganda (NAWOU) as a COMBAT member (Community Based Action Team) in an Irish Aid funded project titled ‘Rising to protect Tipin and Kor’s rights in Amudat’
The campaign involves the use of trained volunteers like Christopher whose influence and reputation in the community has the potential to leverage long held beliefs and FGM practices. One of the most remarkable breakthroughs for the man of God was when he converted a hardcore surgeon called Rebecca. As testament to her conversion she turned away four girls who had gone to seek service of her knife and skill. Another lad divorced a new bride after realizing that she had connived with her parents and lied that she had not been circumcised. To their dismay, he took her back to her clansmen and claimed back the seven cows he had used for the customary marriage.
For a man who practices what he preaches, Christopher chose to start his campaign at home;
“I married off my daughter uncircumcised and my eldest son has just taken in a beautiful uncircumcised bride”
Christopher during an interview at his home located in the far North Eastern district of Amudat in Uganda
The brave man can count up to fifty girls who have successfully married without going through the painful surgeon’s knife ever since he was trained as a combat for NAWOU. The organization has trained about twenty combats in each community.
Joyce Alungat, a combat and founding member of Safe Learning Committees locally known by its acronym SALECO is a strong woman who has devoted her life to fight for the rights of the girl child and campaign against a practice that causes physiological and psychological pain among the victims in exchange for acceptability. She wasn’t deterred by her political loss after she was voted out as a district counselor for being outspoken against FGM and advocating for children’s rights to education. As a result of shared advocacy with five other combats they have been able to put 417 children to school three quarters of whom are girls who were rescued from FGM and early marriage.
NAWOU’s approach is intended to strengthen such existing structures at a time when political survival at the local level has compromised SALECOs efforts signified by a drop in its active membership.
By bringing all stakeholders on board and training community based volunteers the organization is able to collect information about specific areas and specific reasons for FGM persistence so as to employ the most ideal strategy.
Remoteness and a miserable almost nonexistent transport network highly limit the accessibility to most areas and communities. The combats have to overcome thorny thickets, mountains and long distances to take their knowledge about FGM and Human Rights to some of Uganda’s farthest outbacks hoping to adapt their culture to globally acceptable, humane and lawful practices.
New group of COMBATs after a Training in Gender and Human rights conducted in July, 2018 at Donkey City Hotel in Amudat