“Growing up, I remember having a very happy and fulfilled childhood surrounded by close family including my grandmother who, every evening would tell me tales and funny stories. I liked surprise visits from strangers to the house and I knew that if ever I had a problem, my mother and grandmother were always there by my side. I could never have imagined that there were things that hurt in life. I was very confident and well supported, that was at least, until the day I was cut. After this, I was no longer that happy girl and I had lost all trust in people. Every time a stranger came to the house, I did everything I could to get away from them. I lost the close relationship I had with my grandmother. I will never forget that horrific day, the day I was taken to the bush with other girls, to undergo FGM.” – Madame OC, now 52, underwent FGM at age 8, spoke to us about her experiences as a child.
The origins of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) are unclear, but its effects are only too well known in Africa. FGM/C refers to a number of cultural practices involving the partial or total cutting, and sometimes sewing shut, of female genitals. Most commonly, girls undergo FGM/C between four and twelve but it’s also sometimes done in infancy, and up to age thirty. Unlike male circumcision, which can help prevent disease transmission, FGM/C is a practice that has no medical or health benefits whatsoever.
This year, 2020, there are 4.1 million girls around the world at risk of undergoing Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C).
Since 2017, TackleAfrica and Laureus, in collaboration with the Association MAIA BOBO, launched the ‘Kick out FGM’ programme in Burkina Faso, a country where over 80% of girls have undergone FGM/C. Approximately twenty schools and numerous community villages have taken part in our specially-designed football-based programme, aiming to to spread awareness of the harmful practice. We have trained coaches to be trusted sources of information on FGM/C, and to support young girls, their families and the community to take a pledge not to get cut, to marry girls who aren’t cut and, as parents, to promise not to take their daughters for FGM/C.
FGM/C has serious harmful consequences for the girl, and can result in infection, painful or inability to have sex, complications in childbirth to, at worst, death. FGM/C also carries a risk of HIV transmission, where unclean instruments can be used on a number of girls at once, not to mention the huge physical, mental and emotional trauma that comes with such a practice. But even with these shocking effects, the distinction between FGM and FGC (mutilation and cutting) is important in understanding why such a practice persists. At TackleAfrica, we use the word “mutilation” to convey the seriousness of the act, and to show it is a form of violence against women and girls. However, in many of the countries where it’s practised, it has a long cultural history, and parents would not feel they were mutilating their daughters but rather participating in a cultural ritual that will be an important part of their daughters’ lives. Beliefs, even when harmful, are strongly held, and changing culture to eliminate FGM/C will take time, but with the help of survivors like Madame OC, and partners like Laureus and MAIA BOBO, we’ll get there.
To make a donation to our work and help end the harmful practice of FGM/C, please visit https://tackleafrica.org/get-involved/donate/