‘Alternative’ Female Genital Cutting Discourses? A Study of the Maasai of Kajiado, Kenya

ABSTRACT

The study examines knowledge construction on female genital cutting (FGC) and notions of womanhood and the resultant discourses by the Maasai community in

Kajiado, Kenya. There has been a global upsurge in anti-FGC interventions by the international community, feminist movements, national governments, and NGOs

in the last three decades which have described FGC as a barbaric practice that violates the health and human rights of docile and helpless women and girls.

Kajiado has been a recipient of those interventions but reduction in prevalence of FGC has been slow in the community. This study interrogates how the Maasai construct FGC and womanhood. The study utilized qualitative methods in data collection and analysis: 34 in-depth interviews of men and women above 18 years of age and three focus group discussions of naturally occurring women‘s groups. Overall, the study reveals a multiplicity of discourses on FGC in the community. Five of these are steeped in Maasai culture and include the supernatural, social transition, sexual morality, economic benefit and social integration discourses. The other five are influenced by the anti-FGC campaign messages and other modern ‗alternative‘ concepts and include the medical, modernistic, sexual fulfilment, bodily integrity discourse, and the illegality discourses. Another key finding of the study is that although the Maasai demonstrate familiarity with the anti-FGC arguments, they have not owned those arguments as it is demonstrated by their regular use of the phrase ―they say‖ in their reference to those arguments. The older women‘s categorical rejection of claims in those arguments that FGC results in loss of sex drive, excessive bleeding, difficult child birth and death clearly shows that exposure to the anti-FGC arguments does not necessarily convince targets of the interventions. The study also found out that Maasai women are not passive victims of patriarchy and tradition but are rather organizing themselves into groups called „chamas‟ from which they are clearly prioritizing their agency through the raising of independent incomes, access to education and skills training for themselves and their daughters to free themselves from subservience to men, culture and confinement to the domestic sphere. Clearly, FGC is not considered by Maasai women as big a problem as lack of economic independence and education. Further, the assumed equivalence of agency of women with rejection of FGC is undermined by the fact that young educated women are not automatically renouncing FGC, some are actually demanding it. Based on these findings the study recommends an all-inclusive community engagement strategy by the change agents that will clearly empower the Maasai people to construct development in their own terms by naming their major concerns and identifying culture-specific ways to address those concerns. In so doing, the community will be encouraged to get more involved in their own culture change and development. This study contributes to the scarce literature on knowledge construction on female genital cutting, one of the most hotly debated issues regarding African women, by practicing communities. By highlighting the intricacies of the contexts within which this construction is done, these findings rend support to the social constructionist perspectives.

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APA

KIMANI, R (2021). ‘Alternative’ Female Genital Cutting Discourses? A Study of the Maasai of Kajiado, Kenya. Afribary. Retrieved from https://afribary.com/works/alternative-female-genital-cutting-discourses-a-study-of-the-maasai-of-kajiado-kenya-1

MLA 8th

KIMANI, ROSEMARY "‘Alternative’ Female Genital Cutting Discourses? A Study of the Maasai of Kajiado, Kenya" Afribary. Afribary, 12 Apr. 2021, https://afribary.com/works/alternative-female-genital-cutting-discourses-a-study-of-the-maasai-of-kajiado-kenya-1. Accessed 29 May. 2024.

MLA7

KIMANI, ROSEMARY . "‘Alternative’ Female Genital Cutting Discourses? A Study of the Maasai of Kajiado, Kenya". Afribary, Afribary, 12 Apr. 2021. Web. 29 May. 2024. < https://afribary.com/works/alternative-female-genital-cutting-discourses-a-study-of-the-maasai-of-kajiado-kenya-1 >.

Chicago

KIMANI, ROSEMARY . "‘Alternative’ Female Genital Cutting Discourses? A Study of the Maasai of Kajiado, Kenya" Afribary (2021). Accessed May 29, 2024. https://afribary.com/works/alternative-female-genital-cutting-discourses-a-study-of-the-maasai-of-kajiado-kenya-1