Arfon Hussen Alow’s community leadership prevents ten girls from undergoing FGM in Kenya

My name is Arfon Hussen Alow. I am 74 years old and live in Mandera County. I am known in the community as Mama Arfon, the mother who helps. As my husband and four of my children have passed away, I live with my remaining two children and three of my orphaned grandchildren. One of my grandchildren is supported by Islamic Relief Kenya. When I was younger, I used to be a business woman bringing food produce from Somalia to sell in Mandera town. Now, I am too old to work and depend on the orphan sponsorship funds and my two children to survive.

I am currently the chairwoman of the Bula Jamhuria Committee, a group who support the chief in ensuring law and order in the community. We aim to support conflict resolution whilst advocating for peace. I am also part of the ‘nyumba kumi’ community policing initiative. Our primary goal is to ensure security and social cohesion within the community. Our transparency and accountability have helped develop a sense of inter-community trust as we live together. It also acts as a measure to ensure that there is no community involvement in armed crime. Should any criminal activities occur, we are responsible for reporting them to the police.

My community work extends to supporting mothers and girls by ensuring their rights are upheld. I advocate against FGM, and my work has helped save at least ten girls from undergoing the procedure, meaning they have been able to continue with their schooling undisturbed.

I am inspired by love for my community. The best way to make someone feel welcomed is to show them care and concern. I am inspired by the heroes among us who often go unrecognised for their actions, striving to serve the less fortunate with an open heart. I choose to spend my years investing in the development of my community, particularly by supporting the orphaned children, young girls and our female-headed households. My vision is for a world where women and men can feel equal and safe enough to exude strength and be heard without exception.

A story that stands out to me the most was during the past rainy season, the house of a mother and her orphaned child collapsed in a neighbouring village. I was informed that no one had been able to offer any assistance to them, due to lack of resources. I called the chief for assistance and mobilised other community members to pool a fund together to help build a new house for the family in need.

Now looking to the future, I hope that one day I can become literate. As I cannot read, I am forced to rely on other people’s explanations about my community’s entitlements at any given opportunity. Despite my setbacks, I am committed to our people. I believe that poverty should not kill morality or be an excuse to violate the rights of your neighbour. We should always strive to support each other, and we should never feel shy to ask for support.