My mother grew up in Sierra Leone, a country where 88 percent of girls undergo the process of female genital mutilation (FGM). But my mother was not cut. Her mother refused to allow her daughters to undergo the process, and members of their community shunned them. My grandmother was cursed by everyone and anyone and she was told her daughters were unclean and they would never find husbands.
FGM has stopped in my family, because of my grandmother’s bravery to stand up for what she knew was an act of violence.
Unfortunately, not all girls and women are as lucky. Worldwide, it is estimated that 140 million women and girls bear the scars of FGM.
FGM is defined as the partial or total removal of the genitalia of girls and young women for non-medical reasons. It commonly leads to infection, infertility and even death and is mostly carried out between infancy and age 15.
There are three types of FGM. FGM type 1 is when a girl’s clitoris is pricked or cut, damaging sexually sensitive skin. FGM type 2 is the partial or total removal of the clitoris and labia minora, and is also extremely painful and can be lead to infection. But by far, the worst form of FGM is FGM type 3, where a girl’s clitoris and labia majora are cut; she is sewn up and is left with a small hole. This hole is where she is expected to pass urine, menstruate, have sex and have a baby. The hole can sometimes be so small, that she has to be cut open before sexual intercourse. FGM can also lead to prolonged labour, which in turn can lead to obstetric fistula. When obstetric fistula occurs, women suffer from incontinence and are often ostracized in their communities.
My mother told me how FGM was celebrated in her community in Sierra Leone. The girl would dress up and she would be taken away deep into the bush with twenty or thirty Bundu women. Unaware about what was going to happen, the girl would be told to lie down and her legs would be held up firmly by some women. As FGM was being performed, the women would sing at the top of their voices, to block out her cries.
It took thirty singing women to silence the cry of one girl.
FGM is a grave human rights violation that has serious physical and psychological consequences for millions of girls and women worldwide. Women who undergo FGM are affected physically and psychologically, and it is a practice that leaves them scarred for the rest of their lives.
We must end FGM.
I joined Plan UK’s ‘Because I am a Girl’ campaign which aims to eradicate FGM, and you can too. The campaign aims to support four million girls to stay in school, so that they can fulfill their potential. By joining this campaign, you can help transform the lives of millions of girls worldwide. Join Plan UK in their fight to end this grave injustice against women and girls!
- Support the ‘Because I am Girl’ campaign
- Join the conversation on Twitter using #FGMrose
- Like Plan UK on Facebook, follow them on Twitter and circle them on Google+
Cover image c/o Plan UK