In the run-up to International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) on February 6th, W4 spotlights the work of our program partner in Kenya, Voices of Hope.
Voices of Hope supports young Maasai women who are at the most acute risk of undergoing FGM and are also the most motivated to change mindsets from within the Maasai community, through their own actions and leadership. Many of these young women have fled their homes to escape having to undergo the procedure or have been shunned by their communities for not being circumcised. These young women are lacking a support network, but Voices of Hope steps in to offer them safe shelter, higher education scholarships, leadership training, and empowerment opportunities.
In the short- and medium-term, Voices of Hope protects young Maasai women from FGM and empowers them to support themselves by giving them access to university studies and employment. It also achieves long-term positive effects by encouraging the young women to return to their villages, mentor others and take action to spark lasting change.
Rachael Tengbom, Founder and Executive Director of Voices of Hope, gives W4 an example of the program’s powerful impact on the lives of these young women:
“Voices of Hope celebrates every success of every graduate. While most of our students are counted as outcasts by the community and are rejected by their families because they are not circumcised, we have made a tradition of inviting our students’ estranged families to their college graduation ceremonies.
Josephine, one of our students, had not seen her mother for nine years until she came to her college graduation. Her mother watched as she received her degree in Public Health. Josephine’s father, however, refused to attend the graduation.
Josephine’s mother thanked Voices of Hope for all that they have done for Josephine and said she had never seen her daughter this happy before.
We are thankful for Josephine’s mother’s presence at the graduation ceremony and believe that this is the first step in Josephine’s journey of reconciliation with her family and her community.
We have seen how, once empowered, educated, and employed, our young women have won the respect of their families and communities; they have gone on to fulfil their roles as advocates, mentors, and role models, paying it forward for generations to come.
Josephine now has a VOICE and is able to spread HOPE to others in her tribe.”
If you want to help empower other young Maasai women, like Josephine, to become leaders in the movement to eradicate FGM, you can support Voices of Hope today! Together, we can put an end to this harmful, dangerous practice.