Koko Chebigira was among the most feared surgeons in Kaptegurwa parish, Kaptum sub county in Kween district. It is believed that she had herbal charms that could involuntarily influence any one’s will in regards to FGM. If any girl crossed paths with her charms, they would accept to be circumcised. A mother to 10 children, all her daughters underwent FGM but their experiences influenced their decision not to allow their own children to be cut.
“I was introduced to this practice by my grandparents and I believed in it since everyone in the community was practicing it. And at that time it was normal for all the families to engage in FGM. But when I had my own children and they rebelled against me passing my knowledge down to my grandchildren and telling me the dangers of FGM, I knew it was time to change my ways,” confessed Koko Chebigira.
As part of several interventions in the Rise Up project funded by WomanKind Worldwide, NAWOU COMBATs engage and train SAGE beneficiaries, older women including former cutters/ surgeons and older men (power holders of culture) on human rights, 2010 Prohibition of FGM Act and Children Act. This strategy supports locally led initiatives and builds a collective power to challenge FGM/C and early child marriages in the rural communities of Kween district.
She was part of the team from Kween that participated in the two-day cross learning exchange visit between Womankind mentors, religious and cultural leaders and Embassy of Ireland COMBATs, SAGE beneficiaries and former FGM cutters to share best practices on combating FGM and child marriage.
After the exchange visit, she committed to changing her ways and denounced FGM. During a recent visit, she confessed to Geoffery, a COMBAT in her village that she had burnt the herbs and threw away her surgeon’s knife.
“I realized I was violating the rights of girls in my community and I needed to stop,” she said. “From the visit, the different NAWOU trainings and testimonies of girls who have suffered side effects from the cutting, I saw the different was I was endangering their health and lives.”
She attributed the change to NAWOU trainings on FGM. Also from the trainings, she also gained an understanding of the 2010 FGM act. Basing on all these and the fact that she had not gained any substantial wealth from the practices thus far despite living off the gifts and money all these years also led her to changing her stance on FGM.