Peter Kemei (left) and Solomon Kiterie durinng an anti-FGM event. PHOTO/Courtesy
BY SIMIYU SIMIYU | TWITTER: @wakajuaness
Apart from being the second tallest mountain in Kenya, Mt Elgon has been hitting the headlines following the endless attacks by criminal gangs that have left hundreds dead and thousands displaced.
In 2007 and 2008, youths aged between 19 and 31 are said to have joined the famous Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF) that were responsible for the massacre of hundreds of the locals and rape cases in the areas of Mt Elgon.
The communities living in Southern part of Mt Elgon include the Sabaot, the Bukusu and the Tesos.
Earlier reports had also listed the region as among those leading in the illegal Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
As a way of engaging the local youths to stay away from crime, a handful of young men and women came together and founded Adventure Youth Group established after the government ousted the SLDF.
Blogger Wakajuaness finally caught up with the group’s Chairman Solomon Kitere and his secretary Mr Peter Kemei for a brief interview.
Wakajuaness: Welcome to Wakajuaness.Com. When did you establish Adventure Youth Group?
Solomon: Adventure Youth Group was established in 2009 after the government managed to wipe out the SLDF in 2009.
Wakajuaness: What was the objective of founding Adventure Youth Group?
Solomon: Our objective was to sensitize the community against social evils and bring change in the community and tap talents to keep the youths busy away from crimes.
Wakajuaness: Who were the founders?
Solomon: The group was founded by seven members; Solomon Kiterie (now 31), Mr Mike Muge ( now 26), Ms Jentrix Chebonya,Mr Robert Sakana, Vela Chepkemoi, David Okisayi and Irene Mulongo. Some members left the group for due to work and studies and the group now consists of:
Solomon Kiterie – (Chair), Edwin Naibei – (Vice Chair), Peter Kemei (Secretary), Jentrix Chebonya (Treasurer), Joel Serut (Organizing Sec), Robert Sakana (Coordinator), Geoffrey Ngeywo, Irene Mulongo, David Simiyu, Vela Chepkwemoi, Millicent Chepteek and Moses Nyongesa.
Wakajuaness: What was the main challenge when you founded this AYG?
Kemei: Financial support and proper education on how to reach out to thousands of local youths who had lacked direction was our biggest challenge.
Wakajuaness: How did you solve it?
Kemei: We approached several advocacy organisations including Action Aid and Peace Tree Network, who trained us on forum theatre to communicate to the community through acting, singing, and other stage activities.
Wakajuaness: So how are you fighting FGM?
Solomon: We literally speak against FGM at public events, churches and working with local authorities to educate the community against FGM.
Adventure Youth Group Chairperson Solomon Kiterie addresses members of the public in Mt Elgon.
Wakajuaness: What do you do if you come across a victim of FGM?
Kemei: We normally forward the case to relevant authorities to handle it.
Wakajuaness: Have you ever encountered any side effects from the victims of FGM?
Solomon: Yes, most of them have been diagonised with Fistula. As a result, we have a partner organisation – Freedom From Fistula that has set up a free Fistula screening centre in Cheptais, Mt Elgon where our headquarters are located.
Wakajuaness: How many cases have you handled so far?
Solomon: Over 200 cases now.
Wakajuaness: Are you not risking your lives especially from the FGM perpetrators?
Kemei: We are not afraid to do what is right for our community. We campaign with no fear.
Wakajuaness: Is it true that sometimes the perpetrators and the victim families collaborate with the Chiefs to discard the cases?
Kemei: It can happen behind our back but in case it happens, that definately undermines our campaign and efforts.
Walajuaness: Do you think your fight against FGM is a success?
Kemei: I can say it’s a success but the fight against rape still has a long way to go.
Wakajuaness: How has the community so far responded?
Solomon: The communities around have given us much support on our activists.
Wakajuaness: Is there any support from the County Government?
Kemei: There’s zero support from the County Government of Bungoma to initiate activities in the area so far.
Wakajuaness: The fight against FGM is an international concern. Are you working with any other advocacies from the country and abroad?
Solomon: Yes. Global Media Campaign against FGM. It’s a media company that supports any anti-FGM activities.
Walajuaness: Your message to the society?
Solomon: We are sincerely calling upon the society to support this initiative to wipe out female genital mutilation, not only in Mt Elgon but across the country.
Wakajuaness: Great. Do you have social media accounts where fans can engage you?
Kemei: Thanks a lot Blogger Wakajuaness for giving us an opportunity to share our initiative with the fans. Yes. Our Facebook Group is Adventure Youth Group Cheptais and our Twitter handle is @AdventureYG. Keep engaging us.