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Girls should be given their rights

To encourage students to think about and challenge injustices abroad as well as at home.

by James Lamont

Suitable for No Key Stage Specified

Aims

To encourage students to think about and challenge injustices abroad as well as at home.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need two readers for the reflective poem.
  • For more details on this subject see www.feedtheminds.org.

Assembly

  1. What do you own? You own the clothes you wear, the pens you use to write, the books you read. One thing you definitely do own is your body. It is yours. If someone ignores that, it is assault and your rights are violated. But in many parts of the world, this right is not respected.
  2. In Kuria District, Kenya, many young girls undergo female genital mutilation (also called circumcision). This is a horrific experience for the girl. It is followed by an early marriage and subsequent pregnancy. This thus takes the girl out of education, meaning that she will be dependent on her new husband or trapped in poverty.
  3. Why then does this procedure take place? As with many of the world’s evils, poverty is the cause. A circumcised girl will fetch between ten and twenty cows as a dowry, while an uncircumcised girl will be undesirable as a marriage partner. Many girls are circumcised at a young age, often as young as nine, when they are not fully aware of the risks. Many more girls are circumcised without their parents’ consent, or during childbirth.
  4. Female genital mutilation is illegal in Kenya, and the local government has been working in Kuria to remind the citizenry of this. Girls’ empowerment clubs also help. These are made up of girls who have refused to undergo FGM. The objectives of these clubs are women’s empowerment and educating the community about FGM, girl child rights, promotion of hygiene, HIV/AIDS awareness and reproductive health. 

    Other activities include a savings club that helps members purchase essential items such as sanitary towels (so girls don’t have to miss school), and a mentorship programme. These projects are supported by local churches, who often use their large buildings as safe houses for girls escaping FGM. Slowly but surely, girls are beginning to take control of their own bodies and change this anachronistic practice.
  5. The message of all this is that one should always be able to challenge injustice and listen to one’s own consciousness. It is tempting to see this entire story as an African problem, but I would like to conclude with a poem written by two members of a girls’ club, Linet Difcha and Mary Malin:

    Girls should be given their rights

    Reader 1
    When a girl is short and plump
    They say, ‘Look at her, she looks like a sack of potatoes.’
    But when a girl is thin and tall
    They say, ‘Look at her, she looks like a scarecrow, she does not eat.’
    What does the world expect of a girl?

    Reader 2
    When a girl wears a mini-skirt
    They say, ‘Look at her, she looks like a prostitute.’
    But when a girl wears a long skirt
    They say, ‘She looks like a mshamba,
    She must have come from the countryside.’
    What does the world expect of a girl?

    Reader 1
    When a girl is saved
    They say, ‘Look at her, she is only looking for a husband.’
    But when a girl is not saved they say
    ‘Look at her, she will be the first to enter hell.’
    What does the world expect of a girl?

    Reader 2
    When a girl is cut, mmm!
    The old meat hooves walking on three legs.
    Just because they have cows.
    But when a girl is not cut they say
    ‘An outcast, throw her away,
    feed for the dogs.’
    What does the world expect of a girl?

    Together
    The sky our limit, education our shield.

Time for reflection

If you think the attitudes that cause these situations are confined to the Kuria, think again.

 

Think about the way that we judge people.

Think about the way you and I judge people.

Now think about how we could respect and treat all people.

Prayer

Help me to treat others as I would like them to treat me.

Amen.

Publication date: September 2009   (Vol.11 No.9)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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