Ng’etunogh – The passing out of circumcised girls

By Kirui 07/22/10 11:09 AM


Some days before the pass out elders and parents of the girls meet to discuss the requirements of the ceremony. They also discuss and identify one homestead that will be used to host the event. The owner of the identified homestead must be having a girl who is graduating in that group of the initiates. This chosen home owner (man) must be of high moral standard, humble and has the approval of the community as a person of outstanding behavior.

The other item that features in the preparation is food. The homes of the circumcised girls, relatives and friends are requested to donate a variety of food items for the occasion which include maize meal, sugar, tea leaves and milk and among other things. Traditional liquor is also prepared for old men. The elders must as well ensure that the bull to be slaughtered for the ceremony is identified in the herd and agreed upon.

A day before the girls pass out, traditional songs and dance continue renting the air throughout the night as a way of rehearsing for the real ceremony. The young and old come together to rehearse and review plans to ensure that everything is in order with adjustments made if any. People are advised to observe and maintain peace as this is the only acceptable way of appreciating the ceremony and as taboo demands.

Part 1 – The Ceremony

On the material day, the ceremony starts as early as 5am with graduates escorted to the arena by women singing and dancing. They stand in a circular pattern with men singing in joy and happiness with smiling faces except their fathers who are kept away.

Few minutes a black bull is driven by young men to the arena and the owner of the homestead hosting the ceremony together with his son mounts on the tightly held bull with his other children and their mother surrounding the bull. The mounting of the bull by the man with his son and spraying of milk on the head of the bull and heads of other persons signifies transfer of his inheritance from him to the son as well as acceptance that the ceremony be held in his homestead, it further cements the beliefs and traditions of the forefathers as taboo in the community. All this time graduates and others surround the bull singing and dancing with enjoy. The black bull is then let go.

Part 2 – The Ceremony

The 2nd part of the ceremony begins with the driving in of another bull by young energetic men who hold it securely tight while the girls/graduates stand beating the bull with their bare hands until it becomes unconscious and hit on head with a stone by one of the young men and the animal dies. It is yet another accomplishment of the Pokot taboo. A man pierce under the front leg of the bull and blood ooze which is collected and served to old men. Immediately the girls leave the venue for the river accompanied by a group of women to bath. Remember this is their first bathing since they were circumcised nearly two and a half months ago. They sing on their way to the river and back to alert people that circumcised girls are passing by and they must be paved way as required by tradition.

As soon as the girls leave, the men move in to slaughter the carcass while others are busy lighting the fire in the open space set for the purpose. The hide is removed and cut into strings of about 1/2m for another purpose to be explained in the next paragraphs.

The meat is carefully roasted by selected men on fire free of any smoke, then taken to a hut, cut into pieces and served to people. Intestines and stomach waste is emptied on the slaughtering point waiting for the girls to come and step on it once they arrive from the river .The stepping on the waste symbolizes cleanliness and acceptance back home and the end of 2 ½ months of living in the bush.

From here, the graduates move to eat food in homes like points where their mothers had prepared meals, while they were in the river. Every girl goes to her mother’s unit and be served with food after which they are dressed with beads made in several layers of colors as decorations.

This time, men and old people are sitting in groups chatting and monitoring the moment of events as they wait the girls to return to the arena again. The girls are back to the arena escorted by women singing with their heads covered with a piece of animal skin. At this stage, they are regarded as mature and ready women for marriage. They stand on the traditional circular pattern singing and dancing. The event to be performed is the issuance of pieces of cut strings of raw skin/hide to every graduate, and placed on their necks by a man, and a woman picks and ties it around the girls’ waist. This symbolizes that they are blessed to go out as women and to bear children. Immediately their fathers follow to oil the faces of their daughters with animal fats and milk cream stuffed in animal horn. The agemates/age sets of their fathers also perform the same ceremony because they are too regarded as fathers. The girls’ heads are now opened and fathers can see their daughters.

Part 3 – Receiving Gifts

The next event is receiving of gifts by the girls from their parents, relatives and friends, they include beads and money. The graduates look very beautiful in their traditional costumes with feathers on their heads and high pitch sounds produced by bells tied on their knees and ankles sweeten the dance.

From here the girls are directed to a chosen tree outside the compound of the homestead surrounding the tree, lay down and wake up after being promised cows by parents and other relatives, here security of the graduates is beefed up by young men who are relatives e.g. brother of the girls because potential bridegrooms use the occasion to snatch the girls and run away to be his wife. In fact, dowry for some girls was long paid to their parents before graduation and losing a girl to unknown bridegroom complicates the agreement. However, women snatched receive fewer dowries giving reason why they are heavily guarded.

Girls Empowerment Forum

Saturday, 23 August 2008 21:00

A 2-day Girls Empowerment Forum was held at the Cana Girls Rescue Home on 22 and 23 August 2008. It was organized by Action Aid Kenya – Tangulbei DI and World Vision – Nginyang ADP. The forum attracted 300 girls between the age of 11 and 18 years. The girls were sensitized on the consequences of FGM. The forum was graced by Hon. Linah Jebii Kilimo, the then Assistant Minister in the Ministry of Co-operative Development

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