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When my grandmother was strong enough to speak about FGM, it stopped

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Member since July 3, 2014
  • 13 Posts
  • Age 4

June

June

I’m June, 16, from Nigeria, member of Plan UK’s Youth Advisory Panel, Youth Observer Trustee for Plan UK and blogger for Girls’ Globe. I believe we can end FGM and CEFM in a generation - this happened in my family. When my grandmother was strong enough to speak about FGM, it stopped completely.

My mother grew up in Sierra Leone, a country where an estimated 88% of girls undergo Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), also known as female genital cutting or circumcision.

But my mother was not cut. Her mother refused to allow her daughters to undergo the process, and as a result, they were shunned by their community.

My grandmother was cursed by everyone and anyone, told that her daughters were unclean and they would never find husbands. FGM has stopped in my family because of my grandmother’s courage to stand up for her daughters, against what she knew was an act of violence.

Unfortunately, not all girls and women are as lucky. Worldwide, it is estimated that 125 million women and girls bear the scars of FGM.

FGM is defined as the partial or total removal of the female genitalia for non-medical reasons. It 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. It is extremely painful and can 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 cause bleeding, infection and even death. It also has consequences during childbirth. It commonly results in prolonged labour, which in turn can lead to obstetric fistula. Obstetric fistula means that women suffer from incontinence and are often ostracized in their communities.

It is incredible that such a harmful and dangerous practice could ever be seen positively, but my mother tells 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 20 or 30 Bundu women. Bundu is a secretive society of women who initiate girls into adulthood. Unaware of what was going to happen, the girl would be told to lie down and her legs would be held firmly by some of the women. As FGM was being performed, the other women would sing at the top of their voices, to block out her cries. Thirty women would sing to silence the cries of one girl.

FGM is a grave human rights violation that has serious effects on 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. That’s why I’ve been campaigning with Plan UK for the past few months, engaging other young people with an issue that so often they know little or nothing about. I believe that the voices of young people are crucial in helping to bring the practice to an end. On July 19th, at the Youth for Change summit, we have a unique opportunity for those voices to be heard. I, along with *insert number* others, will have the chance to tell senior government ministers what we think about ending FGM, and child marriage too. It’s an opportunity I intend to grasp with both hands.

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