Hi guys, Natalie here.
I’m ready to talk about an issue that people sometimes shy away from: Female genital mutilation. Commonly referred to as FGM, I first learned about this gruesome, inhuman procedure by reading “Infidel,” a memoir by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, where she vividly describes her clitoris being cut. It hurts just to type it. I was shocked that this could exist – that this could be justified by a façade of religious beliefs. And yet, it does. It is estimated that 30 million girls are at risk of genital mutilation before their fifteenth birthday (Unicef).
Female genital mutilation includes procedures that intentionally alter the female genital organs, which can cause severe bleeding, problems with urinating, cysts, infections, infertility, complications in childbirth. The World Health Organization classifies it into four main types of procedures:
Clitoridectomy: partial or total removal of the clitoris (a small, sensitive and erectile part of the female genitals) and, in very rare cases, only the prepuce (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoris).
Excision: partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora (the labia are “the lips” that surround the vagina).
Infibulation: narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the inner, or outer, labia, with or without removal of the clitoris.
Other: all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, e.g. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the genital area.
The good news is there are organizations making honorable efforts to save the 30 million from this violation of female rights and torturous procedure. I scoured the internet to find an organization that I felt was making a direct, sustainable impact. I wanted to find a group that was not simply removing girls from the environment that puts them at risk for FGM, but actually takes action to educate the community on why it needs to stop.
I found an organization called “stop mutilation,” which currently has a campaign focused in Somalia to educate the circumcisers about the health consequences of FGM. But it is much more strategic than merely showing them statistics. The campaign understands the financial benefits of being a circumciser in Somalia – an area where 98 percent of girls are genitally mutilated . These circumcisers are well paid, and they often depend on the income to feed their own families. To give them an incentive to stop practicing FGM, the organization has a project to retrain the circumcisers to be seamstresses, allowing them to find an alternative, sustainable source of income. The training program extends for three months, and each circumciser that participates gets its own sewing machine in trade for a written and oral contract that states they will abandon FGM practices.
By transforming the circumcisers from the ones enabling female genital mutilation to members of the fight against it, there’s great potential to overcome this harmful tradition. Including the cost of the sewing machine, it amounts to about 500 euros to retrain a practitioner.
I believe our class could help raise funds and awareness for this group, and know that the money is going to a sustainable solution to a social issue we often overlook because we don’t see it happen to the young girls in our lives. It didn’t happen to me, and it shouldn’t happen to anyone.