*Advisory: Graphic language and descriptions of a sexual nature
After the pain, it was the screaming that I’ll never forget. It wasn’t just mine and my sister’s screams, there were so many other girls there – all being cut. I’ve never heard screams like that again and I don’t think I ever will. ” – Aissa, Mali, West Africa
Aissa was one of the 125 million girls around the world subjected to Female Genital Mutilation. Today alone, 7,000 women have gone through the traumatizing experience.
The procedure, which is often referred to as female circumcision or cutting, can range from a “clitoral nick,” in which a woman’s clitoris is poked and allowed to bleed, to the partial or total removal of the clitoris or the more extreme form – removal of the entire genitalia (clitoris, labia minora, and labia majora), stitching and narrowing of the vaginal opening leaving a small hole for urine and menstrual flow.
In nearly half of all countries where FGM are practiced, girls are often under the age of 5 when the procedure is performed according to a 2015 UNICEF report.
“ This is an extreme violence against children and has to be dealt with urgently and comprehensively if we are to effectively protect the next generation of girls.” said Shelby Quast, director of Equality Now, an advocacy group that successfully pushed for a global agency group to address Female Genital Mutilation.
As you read this, millions of vulnerable young girls across the world are being forced by their mothers, stepmothers, aunts or grandmothers to physical and emotional pain.
Only girls who have been cut will ever know what that level of pain is like. I honestly thought I was going to die, and then everything went black. – Aissa, Mali, West Africa
Female Genital Mutilation is without a doubt powered by the poison of patriarchy. In a FGM affected communities, there is a fundamental belief that mutilation is the only way to initiate a girl into becoming a “good woman” ready for marriage and childbirth. The bitter irony is that the very process of FGM is achieving the exact opposite.
Removing part of a girl or a woman’s anatomy, disturbing and forcefully changing the way her body is intended to function not only takes away her femininity, but biologically changes the composition that makes her into the woman.
A monumental victory
Jaha Dukureh has an incredible story. She is a wife, mother,and a leader in the global fight to end female genital mutilation (FGM). Now her story is at the center of a new film, Jaha’s Journey, which documents her return to The Gambia and her fight to end FGM in her home country.
At 15 years old, she was taken to New York to marry a 40 years old man who she had never met. She escaped that marriage with the help of local human rights organizations. She remarried and now has three children, including one daughter.
Jaha knew that she would never subject her own daughter to FGM. She also knew that she couldn’t stand by and let other girls be subjected to FGM.
She started a petition on Change.org. And after more than 220,000 people signed her petition.
Jaha’s story and her journey contains the narrative of countless girls whose stories we’ll never hear, their lives lived in the shadows, their dreams unfulfilled.
For Dukureh, it is family that drives her. Specifically, thoughts of her daughter and the future ahead of her.
Saving my daughter isn’t enough, it’s the countless little girls out there like her. ’’