DIRAM DUBA is a youth advocate working with communities in Marsabit County through Amref Health Africa to end harmful cultural practices such as child marriage and female genital mutilation/ cutting.  Driven by personal experiences, one of them being that she is a survivor of FGM, Diram endeavored to advocate against these harmful practices in her community, something she is greatly passionate about to this day. Having started off as a volunteer in an organization working in her community, she is no stranger to advocacy. Over time, Amref Health Africa recognized her talents and passion for her work and urged her to join the organization where she worked in Kajiado and Marsabit counties.

At the moment, she is working on an ANTI-FGM project that targets four communities in Marsabit County in an effort to combat the alarmingly high prevalence rates of early marriages among young girls. By use of the dialogue approach, meaningful engagement of community members (young and old), is made possible in an effort to end harmful cultural practices. Her greatest pride and achievement is having mentored and inspired young women and girls within her community to advocate for their human rights and against harmful practices affecting them. Through her work, her community has experienced progressive positive change which is observed through young girls and women. Women and young girls are thus able to take their rightful place as authors of their own destinies.

Some of the greatest challenges she encounters in her work is the lack of immediate and swift response from the authorities. However, she notes that continuous dialogue fora are a great benefit towards encouraging intergenerational dialogues through meaningful engagement. Diram observes that championing SRHR in a border county often proves difficult. This results from the fact that Marsabit is at the border of Kenya and Ethiopia and cross-border cutting and marriage is rife within these communities. There is also an issue of lack of political goodwill from male politicians in her community who fear retribution and consequently loss of support from the community members.

Diram however remains optimistic for the future. She sees a great opportunity in the near future for the creation of platforms for survivors of FGM to tell their stories. Moreover, she insists on the need for more psychosocial support services to be provided for survivors to be in a better position to share their stories. Diram’s vision for the future is one where harmful cultural practices are non-existent. Moreover, she envisions changed mindsets and attitudes among communities in an effort to bring about gender equality and equity.

Diram Duba, a shy and gentle soul who is greatly influenced by Oprah Winfrey whom she enthusiastically says she would love to meet, is driven by her love for young women and girls finding their courage to own and tell their stories. She believes that allowing women total freedom over their bodies is a huge step towards achieving gender equality. In her opinion, the International Women’s Day represents a day of celebration of the strides women have made throughout history, an avenue for women to further inspire and encourage each other to keep striving towards gender equality and the end of harmful cultural practices and a safe space for women and girls to own and share their stories of triumph.

Written by: B. Nyamwenge Okech.

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