"I will meet the powerful King ‘Aba Gada’ to End FGM among my Kenya’s Borana Community"

On 12th August, International Youth Day, Hassan Mulata together with members of the Kenya Anti-FGM Network launched the Marsabit Chapter. A big celebration took place in four sub-counties; Saku, Moyale, Laisamis and North Horr all in Marsabit County.

The launch, led by Hassan Mulata, hosted by his CBO, Initiative for Progressive Change (IFPC), the county government- Department of youth development, skills & sports, and The Girl Generation, was meant to galvanize the youths to concert effort towards ending FGM in Marsabit.

I was part of these events and deeply interacted with Hassan. I was curious to understand why he was driving such a huge cause. These are my findings….

Mulata who was born in Saku sub county, Mulata-Buke village, a village named after his grandfather who was a village elder - in Borana communities, villages are named after the first vilage elder that establishes the village. His grandfather inpsired him a lot and is his role model.

Mulata reveals to me that his passion to lead and mobilize started ever since he was a young boy in both primary and secondary schools, some, too big roles that often seemed bigger for his age! He recalls a day when he was appointed as a school head boy when he was in class 7. He did not turn down the responsibility. Instead he went down to record as the best head boy ever! 

After he completed high school, he formed a youth group called Nagele, which essentially means ‘peace’ in his local diaect. This group brought together a few young people who used drama and skits to pass knowledge on matters affecting the community such as conflicts, HIV AIDs and health among others. Unfortunately the group broke off since everyone went to college to pursue different ambitions.

MEMBERS OF THE KENYA ANTI-FGM YOUTH NETWORK ADVOCATING FOR PRESERVATION OF GIRL RIGHTS DURING THE #YOUTH DAY

MEMBERS OF THE KENYA ANTI-FGM YOUTH NETWORK ADVOCATING FOR PRESERVATION OF GIRL RIGHTS DURING THE #YOUTH DAY

He too went to pursue aviation at Eldoret Aviation Training Institute. He later on got attached at the Eldoret airport. After his attachment he was unable to find a permanent job at the very airport. He travelled to the capital city Nairobi where he believed he could expand his job search scope, to his dismay he wrote too many application letters and went to many interviews but nothing good yielded. He recalls the ‘Sorry you are not successful emails’ were too many and quite discouraging.

He decided to go back home in Marsabit. In the year 2008, he volunteered for a community based organization called Pastrolists Rescue Mission to develop proposals with no real running program.

In 2010, he moved to another CBO that initiated programs for the indigeneous community which pioneered for girl child education by supplying uniforms, sanitary materials, supplimentary learning materials etc. He worked as the programs cordinator and helped implement these activities.

In 2011, he got involved in the national youth politics. He was endorsed by twenty youths from his location to ok his involvement to contest for leadership.He went through the election process to the level of national youth council.  He was appointed as the chaiperson of the national youth concil, Marsabit county, amid various court injuctions that marred the whole election process. 

Mulata Adan Mulata

Hassan Mulata

Hassan Mulata

As a youth leader, he was involved in a youth dialogue platform which was implemented by Kenya Red Cross Society, an initiative by the office of the president under department of Strategic Initiative and Development for Marginalized Regions (SIDMAR) led by very inspiring Dr. Mukthar Ogle who played a big role in shaping his thoughts on the perspective of tackling problems; that we must endavor to figure out the roles we can play in solving problems. He made him believe that every individual, every community has a solution to its problem.

The following year, Adan undertook a project by Care Kenya, a community based wealth ranking project that involved community mobilization, Hunger SafetyNet Project, a government project funded by DFID where he was the team leader. He learnt how to engage with local and community leaders.

The Passion to Fight FGM

Mulata is the chairperson of the youth council, department of youth where he leads dialogue concerning matters affecting the youth. Early marriage, school drop-out are some of the issues frequently discussed. He realized that such issues can only be resolved if the root cause, which is female genital mutilation is resolved.

He learnt of the health and psycological complications that affect the girls alongside the obvious fact that most girls’ future is cut short by this harmful practise. Most common being type 2 where the clitoris is cut off.

FGM among this community is a hushed subject. It is not openly discussed. It is a culture of silence thus performed in secrecy. Before, there used to be ceremonies but with the vigilance of the existing law that prohibits the practise, most families are now performing it quietly. 

The main reason for FGM among the Borana community is for marriage and to control sexual desire among married women thereby ensuring fidelity. Girls are married off at young ages, from eight years old, and marriage is stimulated by the need to acquire wealth (livestock) by the girls’ parents.

Mulata strongly believes that community dialogue must be initiated at the house hold level, moving up the village level, location level, sub county level and national level. The conversation must involve the youth, women, religious leaders, medics and every other responsible stakeholder. He says that when conversation starts at such a naive level then change is triggered. He advocates for social change strategies and tackling the perceived advantages of FGM, as well as establishment of alternative rites of passage to replace the deep rooted tradition.

Mulata therefore started a community based organization called Initiative for Progressive Change (IFPC) in 2015. He hopes to initiate programs meant to drive FGM out of his community as well as economically empower his people.

Hassan Mulata talking to children at Al Hidaya Orphanage during the #YouthDay

Hassan Mulata talking to children at Al Hidaya Orphanage during the #YouthDay

The Need to Dialogue with ‘Aba Gada’ Cultural King

The Borana people inhibit the Northern part of Kenya and are an extension of the Ethiopias Borana. Majority of the Borana live in Oromia region of Ethiopia and others in Northern Kenya of Moyale, Saku and Waso.

‘Aba Gada’ is the highest cultural leader of the Borana and heads an assembly called ‘Gumi Gayo’ where maltitude of people gather to debate and participate in a concensus based on decision making process on issues central to the Borana.

Aba Gada is elected after every eight years. The current King has two more years left to rule. Unfortunately he has never talked about FGM nor has anyone mentioned it to him.

Mulata hopes to meet the incoming Aba Gada (the community is already aware of the incoming King) to convince him to make a declaration against FGM. He knows its not an easy task. The King is not easily accessible. In fact his people will view him as insane for trying something that no one had ever dared to do.

Mulata who was recently appointed as the ambassador for The Girl Generation projects- an Africa led campaign that works towards ending FGM in Africa, hopes to use this platform to bring together other significant leaders to help him start off the however big task ahead of him. Top on his mind is Dr. Ali, a conflict resolution expert who is currently resolving the Sudan conflict crisis.

‘It is in the Gumi Gayo assembly that such cultural norms can be ammended, and am willing to to even meet the incoming king to start off the dialogue’ says Mulata.

Politics, power and FGM

It is very important to note that traditional leaders have a very important role to play in matters affecting the community. The Borana can only be somehow saved from FGM if their ‘king’ makes a rulling agaist it. Just like the maasai leader in Kenya where the Chief Moran (highest authority) based in Tanzania passed a declaration against FGM.  The orders trickled down to the existing hierarchies among the morans. The Morans have since them turned their backs on FGM, the wind of change is currently blowing in Kajiado.

These egalitarian social political organization based on geneological age are very powerful and often have more authority over existing governments.When governments enact legislations against FGM, the laws mean nothing to these leaders.

Hassans’ Dream

Besides fighting FGM, Mulata hopes to econonically empower his community by driving economic development through sharing of resources.

His ambition to transform his Mulata-Buke village is inspired by Huaxi village in China, one of the richest village in China where peasant farmers collectively used available resources to multiply their wealth. They have grown into a multi-billion village with every villager being a share holder to the listed companies on the stock exchange market. The villagers are able to access quality basic needs such as food, clothing, housing, health, education quite easily in fact at no cost!

He hopes to replicate the same and has already started by mapping out the available resources such as land and a water pan. He has also identified a number of organizations that are willing to work with him to realize his dream.

Poverty is a cycle that has viciously affected his community. He wants to completely break the cycle. He wants to empower and liberate women who perform FGM for economic reasons. He wants to liberate men who marry off their daughters to acquire wealth, he wants to liberate the young girls who are blind to their potential, he wants to liberate the young boys who believe in nothing other than herding and marrying.

He will do whatever it takes. I see the quest in him. And I am quite certain that Hassan Mulata is indeed going to be the next Nobel Laureate prize winner! 

Let us help him realize his dream!

This article was originally published on Lorna's personal blog site.