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SUNDAY VISION , December 28, 2014





Cheptoik and
Chelimo at their
mother's grave

Cherotich did not have to die

Catherine Cherotich was forcefully mutilated
while she was in labour. It is alleged that she
bled to death. Now her daughters at nine, six,
and four years old could very well go down
the same path as their mother when they
come of age, but do they have to? Caroline
Ariba writes

atherine Cherotich went

through female genital mutilation (FGM) in the name of
culture, and today she is dead.
Yes. Dead and buried in Tuikat
hill, Kere village, Kwozir
sub-county, in Kween district,
nearly 500km from Kampala city.
On the grave is the inscription: Cherotich
Catherine. Born 25-10-1988 and died 3-112014. Buried on 6-11-2014.
How does that explain anything to her
12-month-old son, Solomon Chemusto?
Will it erase the emptiness in four-year-olds
Abigail Chepbembois eyes? Do not be
fooled either by the smile on six-year-old,
Magdalene Chelimos face; it is only a brave

attempt at holding back tears.

But the one with the biggest burden is
nine-year-old, Rhoda Cheptoik. She looks
aloof as she carries her little brother, unable
to feign any cheerfulness for him. Her spirit
seems broken.
She avoids looking at her mothers grave.
She longs that maybe, just maybe, her mother as always, has gone to sell avocado at the
trading centre and will be back. But that will
never be. Cheptoik now has to help raise her
siblings since her ailing grandmother cannot
do much and her father is off to the forest
for weeks to burn charcoal.
No, Cheptoik cannot help that her sister
Chelimo has been turned into a babysitter of
sorts by relatives, how can she? It is nearly

10:00am, but none of them has had a bite to

eat and from the look of their brothers skin,
they did not have a bath the previous night.


The day before she died, a very pregnant
Cherotich went to the villages only traditional birth attendant (TBA), at the first sign
of labour. It is alleged that the old woman
mutilated her genitals while she was giving
birth. It is thought that the bleeding from the
mutilation got out of control and Cherotich
went into shock and passed out. When she
next woke, she tried to push, but the unborn
child was too tired and died after a little
while, so did the mother.
The people can only murmur their suspicions because the TBA is the closest person
they have to a health worker.
But we know what happened. When they
were cleaning Cherotichs body, they saw the
wound, but the old woman has denied doing
that, says a relative who begged anonymity.
But why would anyone wait for a woman
giving birth to mutilate her? We think that
she was told by someone to make sure that
Cherotich is circumcised as she gives birth
this time round, another says. They knew
for sure that Cherotich did not want to be
circumcised, so what was a fresh mutilation
wound doing on her?
We cannot report the old woman because
she is the only health worker we have here.
So, we decided to keep quiet. But during
the burial, the old woman was questioned
and she denied, claiming that Cherotichs

now dead child was to blame.

According to the United Nations Population
Fund (UNFPA), FGM is a procedure that
involves the partial or total removal of the
external female genitalia for majorly cultural
reasons. UNFPA estimates that more than
125 million girls in 29 countries in Africa
and the Middle East have gone through
In Uganda, it is practised by the Sabiny
in Kapchorwa, Kween and Bukwo districts
where at least 50% of women and girls
undergo it. It is also practised among the
Pokot and Tapeth in Amudat, Nakapiripirit
and Moroto, where 95% of women and girls
undergo the practice.
A 2007 report on FGM by the World
Health Organisation notes that FGM reflects
a deep-rooted inequality between sexes,
and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It further states
that FGM has no use, no health benefits
whatsoever and is just out to harm women
and girls.
Apart from the pain, Dr. Peter Kivunike of
the Ministry of Health, says complications
like shock, bleeding, tetanus and or sepsis
(bacterial infection), urine retention and
injury to genital tissue can occur.
He adds that FGM can lead to even more
intense conditions like recurrent bladder
and urinary tract infections, cysts, childbirth
complications, maternal and newborn