Rhoda Rotino (42) is a trained teacher from West Pokot in Kenya. She is currently engaged as an area development program leader by World Vision Kenya in her home district. For years she has campaigned against female genital mutilation (FGM) and early marriage of girls. She insists on the rights of girls to go to school. Based on her own experience, she has helped introduce an alternative right of passage to adulthood for girls. She works tirelessly on training and awareness creation against FGM among the Pokot community.
She has been roundly condemned and criticized as a traitor of the community. However, her passion and determination to fight for the rights of women and girls still burns. In an area where female genital mutilation (FGM) is rampant and considered a right of passage for all girls, it takes more than courage to stand up against it. That is the step Rhoda Rotino has taken in Pokot District in Kenya. FGM and early marriages violate the rights of girls and keeps them out of school. Many die as a result of the circumcision or later while giving birth because their bodies are not mature to have children. Rhoda’s engagement and her fight for the women and girls started as a volunteer in her own community where she rescued girls from FGM. Although FGM is illegal in Kenya, it continues to be carried out by many communities. “As one of the few girls in my community to be educated, I was enlightened and informed about my rights,” says the mother of two boys and three girls. Thanks to her efforts, more than a thousand girls have gone through alternative rights of passage. Rhoda says these rights instead “circumcise” the mind to adulthood and the girls can continue with education. More than ten circumcisers have been assisted to find alternative sources of income. Thousands of people in the area have received information on FGM and the awareness is increasing.