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Saedi’s testimony and Female Genital Mutilation Featured

A few months ago we were lucky enough to share special moments with a very special girl. Saedi came to Lamu to do her internship at Afrikable. Saedi is, above all, a brave woman who is bursting with life, strength and courage... an example to follow at only 18 years old.

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Her parents are from Gambia and, although she was born in Spain, it wasn’t until a few months ago that she obtained her Spanish nationality. “My dad lived in Spain as if he were still in Gambia, he forbade me and my siblings to speak in Spanish at home, and he would beat us if he heard us speak in any language other than Soninké, our mother tongue”. Although that’s not the only reason why he beat them... abuse was constant at home.

When she was 8, her parents took her on a trip to Gambia with her little sister to learn how to be like Gambian women. Back then she didn’t know that trip would mark a before and after in her life. They stayed at her father’s house in Turekunda, a small village far from the capital of Gambia. One morning like any other, after a breakfast like any other, her mother dressed her in a cloth that seemed very strange to her and took her to the bathroom where suddenly more women came in: her cousin and her mother held her to the ground, one leg each, another woman stood behind her holding her body and arms. Lastly, another woman entered the room with a blade in her hand.

“I don’t really remember it as something extremely painful, but I do remember the screams of my sister when it was her turn” Saedi says. Maybe her mind wanted to erase such a horrible memory, maybe the fear or tension made her focus on what happened to her sister so she could somehow mentally escape what was happening to her. Maybe it simply didn’t hurt her as much as she expected.

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If I put myself in her place, in the place of an 8-year-old girl who suddenly is taken to the bathroom and forcibly held to the ground by 3 or 4 women while another one wields a blade in her hands, I would be terrified. In any case, what is clear is that that day, when others decided for her what to do with her body, they rode roughshod over her rights as a child and her rights as a woman.

Her parents returned to Spain, but she was left with her aunt in Gambia waiting to find a husband for her. During that period, abuse and mistreatment were common in her day to day life. Two years later Spanish bureaucracy gave Saedi a golden opportunity. She had to renew her residence permit since her father never registered her as a Spaniard in the civil registry despite being born and raised in Spain. He had to bring her back to Spain for the paperwork, and due to the precarious economic situation that the family was going through at that time, they could not send her back to Gambia.

The physical abuse continued in Spain, but one day Saedi, at the young age of 13, decided to let the brave woman inside her come out, the woman she has become now, and put an end to that situation. She talked to her teacher about everything that was happening to her and immediately all protocols for child protection were implemented. From that moment, thanks to Generalitat of Catalonia and Children’s Villages, she is safe and more full of life than ever before.

Within the cycle of women's rights, and specifically following previous workshops on gender violence, we wanted to close this cycle by raising awareness about Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) as the ultimate expression of the violation of the rights of women and girls, as well as a clear example of both physical and psychosexual violence against all of us.

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It is very common to hear about “female circumcision” when referring to FGM, and that’s why we wanted to focus our workshop on highlighting precisely the differences between male circumcision and female genital mutilation.

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Male circumcision is one of the oldest known surgical operations, it consists in the removal of the foreskin (skin that covers the glans of the penis). The main reasons for its practice are religious, cultural and for health. It is estimated that around 30% of men of the world’s population are circumcised. The risk of complications during surgery, or post-surgery, is 2%, and they are easily treatable in most cases. Recent studies by the World Health Organization indicate that male circumcision significantly reduces the number of urinary infections, some types of cancer, and even sexually transmitted diseases. Special mention for the WHO studies that show that male circumcision reduces the risk of HIV infection by approximately 60%.

MGF Circuncisión Mapa

Female Genital Mutilation comprises all procedures involving partial or total removal of the female external genitalia and other injuries to them for non-medical reasons. It has no beneficial effect on health and harms women and girls in many different ways. It can cause severe bleeding and urinary problems, and may later cause cysts, infections, birth complications and increased risk of newborn death. More than 200 million women and girls have now been subjected to FGM in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia where this practice is concentrated.

MGF Mapa

Female genital mutilation is classified into three major types:

  • Type 1 - Clitoridectomy: partial or total removal of the clitoris.
  • Type 2 - Excision, involves the partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora (the inner folds of the vulva), with or without excision of the labia majora (the external skin folds of the vulva).
  • Type 3 - Infibulation, consists in the narrowing of the vaginal opening, which is sealed by cutting and repositioning the labia minora or majora, sometimes by stitching them, with or without removal of the clitoris (clitoridectomy).

Tipos de Mutilación Genital Femenina

FGM is recognised internationally as a violation of the human rights of women and girls. It reflects a deep-rooted inequality between the sexes and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is almost always carried out on minors and constitutes a violation of the rights of girls. It also violates the rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right not to be subjected to torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life in cases in which the procedure leads to death.

According to UNICEF, 9.3 millions of women and girls in Kenya (27% of the total) have experienced female genital mutilation, which positions Kenya as the number 17 of the 29 African countries where FGM is practised.

Mutilación Genital Femenina en África

The ethnic group that practises FGM the most is Cushite, which includes the Somali, Borana and Orma tribes. The Maasai and Samburu tribes from the Nilote ethnic group also practise it to a great extent. On the contrary, the ethnic group that practises FGM to a lesser degree is Bantu, among which are the Giriama, Pokomo and Kikuyu tribes, as well as the Swahilis. 87% of the mutilations in Kenya correspond to type number 2: Excision.

Mutilación Genital Femenina por tribus

In 2011, a law banning Female Genital Mutilation was passed in Kenya: “The Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation ACT nº32, 2011”. Under this law, it is illegal to practise FGM or even to take a woman or a girl abroad to practise it.

Since the law was passed, the practice has fallen by 11%. In contrast, the girls who suffer it keep getting younger, probably so they won’t be able to resist while being mutilated. If girls reach school age, they will probably refuse to undergo the practice since nowadays there is more information on the subject and they would have more options to lodge a complaint.

Many of the Afrikable women were subjected to mutilation when they were little, or even their daughters have experienced it. They all agree that there are no rules related to religion that force people to carry out FGM; most recognise that it is a cultural issue, that has been done ancestrally, that nobody told them it was wrong and that other options existed. In the past, women who didn’t undergo ablation were rejected by their community and couldn’t find a husband since they feared they would leave them for other men. It was also practised as a way to keep virginity intact until marriage. They now realise that men from their tribes marry women from other tribes where ablation is not practised and they wonder why they have to undergo it.

Since the law was passed, they have encountered many difficulties to carry out FGM on their daughters, and fortunately many have been saved from being mutilated. After the workshop they have verified and understood that some traditions are better relegated to the past.

All women were impressed with Saedi’s testimony and strength, and encouraged her to specialise in this area, thus, with her testimony, she would be able to contribute in the fight to eradicate female genital mutilation.

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Saedi, you are quite the role model… we congratulate you for being the way you are and we encourage you to move forward, to become the great woman we know you are going to be… It was our good fortune to count on your support and collaboration with Afrikable. Karibu tena!!

MGF Taller

MGF Taller

 

Author: Lola Serra | Translator: Sonia Moscardó

Read 1214 times Last modified on Tuesday, 16 January 2018 18:53
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ABOUT AFRIKABLE

Afrikable is a Spanish charitable organisation, registered in the National Register of Associations under number 1/1/594088 and in the Spanish Agency of International Cooperation for Development (AECID)'s Register of Non-Governmental Organisations under number 2033.

 

In Kenya our association is called Afrika Able Organization and is registered with Kenya's NGO Coordination Board under number 10976.

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