Female classmate, and even our co-workers, who had gone

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is
the removal of the cutting or removal of female genital part causing severe
injuries to women and girls. According to UNICEF, 30 million girls are at risk FGM
even though it had been Banned in 42 countries. Therefore, FGM is a global
concern.

 

There is an alarming rate of FGM
practice here in the United States despite it been illegalized. “Since 1990, the
estimated number of girls and women in the US who have undergone or are at risk
of the practice has more than tripled. The increase is due to rapid growth in
the number of immigrants from countries where risk of FGM is greatest. These
girls and women are concentrated in California, New York and Minnesota.” (UNICEFF).
These victims are our friends, classmate, and even our co-workers, who had gone
through this painful procedure at a very young age without their consent and
still experiencing it negative long-term consequence. I am a victim of FGM just
like “200 million girls and women around the world” (WHO). I wish I had never
went through it, but because of my experience, I am able to research about it
and learned beyond my experience to make awareness about it to help victim like
me and those at risk. FGM is harmful and has no benefit to women and girls, but
a violation of their rights.  

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Although the people who practice FGM
believes this practice should be carried for the benefit of the women and girls,
it is recognized internationally as a violation of the human right of girls and
women. It reflects the culture of inequality between the men and women, and extremely
form of inequity against women. Young girls between infancy and adolescence are
at risk of this practice annually and is a violation of the rights of children.
“It violates a person’s right to live healthy, security and the right to be
free from persecution and right to life when the procedure result in death” (WHO).

In many communities, female Genital
Mutilation is carried by traditional circumciser who has no formal training. In
my country, the elder celebrate the procedure. Every summer, for example, the
“Mandinka” tribe holds a ceremony to circumcise the young children. I
would watch as the older boys and girls led the younger children in line. The
younger children would take off their clothes. Then, one by one, a local
circumciser would circumcise each child. They would use the same knife and dip
it in water to “clean” it. After the circumcisions, I always heard
the drums, which the elders explained were celebratory. But they were not to
me.

 

I am a native and citizen of The
Republic of the The Gambia, West Africa, and a member of the Sarahule tribe.
When I was very young, my family forced me to undergo Female Genital
Mutilation. Female Genital Mutilation is a practice inflicted on almost every
female not only in my ethnic tribe but throughout all The Gambia. Female
Genital Mutilation is extremely prevalent in The Gambia where the elders
continue to encourage the unsanitary, harmful procedure. The elders encourage
the procedure by offering different reason for it. For examples, my grandmother
and my mother always told me the Female Genital Mutilation is necessary because
it protects girls by stopping them from having sexual feelings, which prevent
unwanted pregnancies.

 

However, the reasons why Female
Genital Mutilation are performed is different in every region, and it include a
mix of Psychosexual reasons, sociology and cultural reasons, hygiene and
aesthetic reasons and sometimes religious reason within families and
communities. Women fear been rejected, so for that reason the social pressure plays
a very vital role in motivating the practice to be performed. This practice is
also considered a necessary to raise a girl and educate her to prepare her for
adulthood and marriage. Female Genital Mutilation is often motivated by beliefs
about controlling a girl’s sexuality and to maintain premarital virginity and
marital fidelity. Female Genital Mutilation is associated with the removal of
the dirty part which often consider unclean. A woman or a girl is often considered
unclean unfeminine if that part her body is never remove. cultural ideals of
femininity and modesty, which include the notion that girls are clean and
beautiful after removal of the body parts that are considered unclean,
unfeminine or male.

There are no health benefits to
Female Genital Mutilation. “Removing and damaging healthy female genital tissue
interferes with the natural function of women and girls’ bodies, the health
consequences can be high-risk and vary from immediate problems to long-term,
damaging effects” (WHO). Studies from UNFPA, UNICEF and WHO show that procedure
can result in severe pain, shock, bleeding, tetanus or sepsis (bacterial
infection), inability to urinate, open sores in the genital region and injury
to nearby genital tissue. Girl are also at risk of abnormal periods, recurrent
bladder and urinary tract infections, cysts, pain during sex and lack of sexual
pleasure, infertility, childbirth problems and new-born deaths. I fear going
through de-infibulation, the removal of the vaginal sealing just as millions of
young women who have had their vaginal opening sealed (infibulation), which
result to difficulty in intercourse and child birth if not undone. Apart from
the physical complications, the victims also suffer psychological problems such
as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder which follow the
traumatic procedure and this problem will continue for the rest of their lives.
For example, . . . “a 24-year old pregnant woman, who was believed to be
autistic, to refuse medical treatment – specifically a caesarean section. The
case was complicated because, as a child, she had undergone Female Genital
Mutilation (FGM), as well as abdominal scarring to release bad blood” (Symon).

 

In most societies, Female Genital
Mutilation is practiced because is considered tradition that should be continue
because it has been done before them by their ancestors. This is often used as
an argument for its continuation. According to WHO, Health professionals are
urge not to perform such procedures at health facilities which is sometime consider
as the medicalization of FGM. The prevalence of Female Genital Mutilation has
decreased in most countries, but the practice is still going on despite the
support from international and national level to eradicate this practice.

 

I have many concerns about Female
Genital Mutilation. When I tried to discuss them with my mother, she would ask
what I would possibly know about Female Genital Mutilation. She always told me
that many girls before me survived the procedure. But I know many did not or,
if they were lucky enough to survive, they have suffered serious medical issues
because of it. The involvement of youth in the advocacy is the key in ensuring
that future generations of girls and women remain uncut and protected from
harm. Their use of social media platform to communicate with fellow young people
will amplify key messages on Female Mutilation and widened the reach. What
really hinders the percent success of the campaign against Female Genital
Mutilation is primarily due to poor advocacy at the grass root level where the
voice is more prominent among traditional people. The degree of penetration
into such conservative circle needs a special approach methodology. Studies
from many international group shows that, if we involve practicing communities
themselves, the practice can be eliminated very rapidly. We need to carry
traditional leaders on board and involve them in the scheme of things, and this
is what we are lacking. This practice is becoming an addictive deficiency to
the prospect of girls in the pursuit of endeavors. Female genital mutilation is
adversely a serious health risk with multidimensional repercussions, we must
stop it. I do not support Female Genital Mutilation. I am strongly against it
in all forms. I want to change the opinions of those who support it in The
Gambia. They live in ignorance; They continue to believe that Female Genital
Mutilation must be done because it was done long before us. To me, tradition is
not a good enough reason to violate a woman’s body against her will. Women
suffer through so much naturally. I do not see why we must add to that
suffering.

FGM practice should be eliminated
completely and action is needed now. Despite the overall progress, if action
against FGM is not accelerated, the number of girls to be cut will continue to
grow as the population is growing. “There has been an overall declined in the prevalence
of FGM over the last decades, yet not all countries have made progress and pace
of the decline has been uneven” (UNICEF). This study show that the progress is
insufficient to keep up with increasing population growth. If this rate of
progress is still maintained, the number of girls and women undergoing FGM will
rise significantly over the next decade.

 

I hope this piece of information help
you understand the reason and consequence of FGM, what can be done to eradicate
it and what the future hold if nothing is done about it. I am committed to ending
FGM, so I need you to join me. Many in the US hear about FGM and think it only
happens in faraway lands. Unfortunately, this is far from reality. The practice
of FGM is illegal in the US but girls are being taken to other countries,
usually their parents’ country of origin where they are cut in what is now
known as “vacation cutting.” Part of the difficulty in recognizing and
addressing the problem in the US is the lack of awareness and up-to-date
research/statistics on the prevalence of FGM. I share my story because I want
to encourage other victim like me to speak out and you help by spreading the
word to raise awareness using social media platforms or participating in groups
of women here in the united states that fight against this practice