FGM/C is traditionally seen as a rite of passage into adulthood that renders girls susceptible to dropping out of school and to early marriage. ARP provides girls with an alternative to FGM/C, where they can celebrate their adolescence with a weeklong retreat of singing, dancing, and empowering workshops. In these workshops, girls learn about the harmful effects of FGM/C, reproductive health, personal hygiene, interpersonal communication, relationship building, family life, personal decision-making and confidence building.
Parents and community members are invited to participate in the ARP graduation ceremony at the end of the retreat, so they can see the positive influence that the program has on girls’ lives and attitudes. The ARP program was developed by WGEP’s local partner Tharaka Women’s Welfare Program (TWWP) in 1996, and was the subject of a short documentary, Rebecca’s Story, created in collaboration with the Obama Foundation’s Girls Opportunity Alliance.
Since 2013, WGEP and TWWP have also joined forces to create a safe place for boys to enter adulthood, too. To date, 307 boys in rural areas have undergone medically safe male circumcision. Through this program, boys are able to avoid complications that can accompany traditional circumcision, as well as harmful cultural practices such as violence that are used to usher boys into manhood. These incredible young men publicly support their sisters, cousins, classmates and friends in standing up to FGM/C!
Nancy, pictured alongside her brother, Emmanuel, shared: “The challenges in my life motivate me to be better… I know that if I can work hard enough to get through school and help my siblings, I will be a better person and have a better life for my family.” Nancy, a WGEP scholar since 2016, is now studying to become a teacher at Tharaka University. Nancy attended the Alternative Rite of Passage (ARP) in 2016, where she learned about the harmful effects of FGM, her body and her rights, and the importance of staying in school. Nancy is the primary caretaker for her four siblings; her father died when she was young and her mother struggles with her mental health and is unable to care for them. Nancy is determined to achieve her dreams: she is studying education at Tharaka University, and dreams of becoming a teacher and business woman! Through the pandemic, WGEP supported Nancy and her siblings with food, menstrual products, solar lanterns, mobile phones, books, and soap.