I am a 60+ year African born in America. I have participated in, as well as organized, Sisterhood circles for most of my adult life. Our focus has always included fighting for our rights, finding holistic choices for our families, creating educational institutions for our children, assisting our elders, supporting our brothers, in addition to organizing and developing ourselves, while fine tuning our role and responsibility as the Wombones in society.
Recently, I was reintroduced to a horrific practice that I had become aware of some years ago. Sadly, I didn’t take much interest in it back then. But, since I’ve come across it recently I realize that what I thought I knew about it was only a tip of the iceberg, regarding the depths of this unimaginable tragedy imposed on my Sisters, particularly those living in Africa. The August 17, 2015 article in the DUNIA [the Reader’s Magazine] entitled, “Why has female genital mutilation survived for so long?” by Innocent Chia, as well as the video on “WHY THE FUTA ARE TURNING AWAY FROM GENITAL MUTILATION”, exposed me to the unfathomable impact of the pain and suffering that our Sisters have been enduring for many years. It was very overwhelming to learn that these practices have not only been in existence for many decades, but still exist today.
According to the UN, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is most common in 29 countries across Africa and the Middle East. The highest rates (prevalence levels above 90%) have been recorded in Somalia, Guinea, Djibouti and Egypt, while in countries like Cameroon and Uganda, only 1% of girls and women are affected by FGM”.
UNICEFF reports that, “more than 130 million girls and women alive today have been cut in the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East, where Female Genital Mutilation/Circumcision (FGM/C) is concentrated. If current trends continue, as many as 30 million girls are at risk of being cut before their 15th birthday in the next few years.”
In places like Mt. Elgon in Kenya among the Sabaots, a Pastoral community where the men would often leave home for long periods of time moving around with their herds in search of fresh pastures, circumcision was performed on girls between the ages of 14 and 16 years (before their first sexual intercourse), in hopes of reducing their interest in the opposite sex by curbing their sexual pleasure. They believed it was a way of safeguarding that the Wombones remain virtuous and “proper”, but most of all not promiscuous while the men were away.
Despite the obvious pain of these procedures that were done with no anesthesia, it was unthinkable for them to cry when being circumcised. Often times it would result in death or irreversible trauma, which affected their ability to concentrate in school. Many of them would simply drop out, and abandoned any thoughts of continuing their education. After these procedures were done these young girls would be married off to older men. This practice of FGM and child marriage was done because the men would prefer to have a virgin. “If [in the old days] it was discovered that her virginity has been lost, the girl would be speared to death for humiliating her family,” explained Redempta Wekesa in an interview with DUNIA Magazine.
Today FGM is being carried out on girls between the ages of 5 – 10 years old, in secrecy by medical personnel using advanced methods. Relative to the data gathered by UNICEFF and the UN, we can only imagine what the total percentages could be when factoring in areas that may not have been included in their surveys, areas relatively remote from the general population. It is fair to assume that the data gathered falls short of the actual numbers affected and does not reflect 100% accuracy .
As my conscious is raised, my heart becomes filled with a plethora of emotions drowning my sense of humanity, raising the question of the possibility of no continuum. Has society become so warped that we cannot recognize our demise underscored in these procedures that clearly are ‘Acts of Terrorism’? As is the case with any procedure done to remove or shut down parts of our bodies, we lose an aspect of our essence that makes us who we are. How can we continue to allow our Mamas/Aunties/ Sisters/ Daughters to be subjected to this perpetration of the destruction of our essence? This act of intentional indiscriminate violence in the form of FGM is clearly the means to achieve the goal of ultimate control of the Wombones, ‘Terrorism’ personified!
There is only one conclusion. We MUST take action NOW! Being the Wombones in our society, we would be remiss if we did not lead the way to eradicate these practices once and for all! However, our brothers must also recognize the value of their support in this mission. Men have been the primary perpetrators and the benefactors of these gruesome practices of control, regulating female behavior for their own selfish desires. Our Brothers that can identify with this undertaking will have a tremendous impact on this mission.
Female circumcision is recognized, by the traditional female surgeons, also known as the ‘cutters’, as a ‘Cultural Heritage’ in addition to it being a source of income for them. We also know that eliminating these practices will remove the status of man from his seat of authority and power over the lives of the Wombones, thus, making this task of doing away with these practices challenging and arduous to say the least.
Thankfully the work is already underway. Those Sisters noted as the “Cutters”, have already begun to band together and take measures to get rid of these practices. People around the world are now becoming aware of the detriment of these intrusive life changing procedures. Initiatives have been created to research and document those communities in societies where it is still in existence. But, undoubtedly more effort has to be made to end it once and for all. Education is the key! Raising awareness is always the first step. Female Genital Mutilation must not continue into the next millennium. We all have a stake in the future. We all have a part to play.
Nkiruka Z. A. T. Yakini, born and raised in Detroit, Michigan is an Educator, Mama of 6 and Nana of 3. She is also a writer for OURSTORY Journal since 2011, photographer and videographer of NZATY Productions; a dancer, musician, and Choreographer (since 1980), and Community Organizer/Activist. She repatriated to Ghana, West Africa in October 2007.
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