F. G. M. Three innocent letters. Yet for millions of girls they represent the end of their childhood and the beginning of a lifetime of misery. Worldwide an estimated 140 million women and girls have had female genital mutilation (FGM), but it's stories like these from Kenya which bring the horror of that statistic to life.
Protecting girls from FGM is so much more than protecting them from a one-off painful experience. Because FGM can cause long-term health problems, and often leads to girls being married off at a young age, it can cause huge suffering for the rest of a girl’s life.
FGM causes excruciating pain
Pamela’s mother died when she was three years old, and her father married her off to an older man when she was just 13. She was out collecting firewood when the man came, forced her into a truck and took her to his house, beating her on the way. She was locked in a hut for one week.
At the time she hadn’t had FGM, but shortly after arriving at her new husband’s house she was forced to be cut. As a result, she had complications during the birth of her daughter, and is scared to get pregnant again. Pamela says, “Being pregnant frightens me because you are cut again when you are delivering.”
FGM takes lives
Chepatula’s daughter was living away from home when she underwent FGM. She lost a lot of blood and was treated with traditional herbs before she was finally brought to the hospital. But it was too late. Chepatula did not know what had happened until she heard her daughter was in hospital.
Chepatula says, “I was told ‘your daughter has been cut and she has bled so much.’ If she hadn’t undergone the cut, she wouldn’t be dead.”
FGM leads to girls leaving school
When Everlyne was 14, her parents wanted to take her out of school as they felt they couldn’t afford it. They were thinking about forcing her to be cut and marrying her off.
Thankfully Everlyne got the support of her head teacher, who threatened to report them and convinced them to let her continue her schooling. Her parents were regretful and are now supportive of her studies, but many girls aren’t so lucky. Everlyne is one of only three girls in her village who have gone on to secondary school.
FGM tears families apart
Salome was so scared of being cut she walked over 200km to escape FGM. She lived on handouts and even ate soil, and anything else she could find. She was only 12.
Her father and brothers had locked her in the house and called a cutter. But her mother helped her escape, by asking the cutter to come back later, and pretending to send Salome to fetch water. Salome is now at school where she feels safe, but she is separated from her family and fears for her little sister who she left behind.
We’re working with communities in Kenya to stop FGM. Protecting a girl from FGM can be the difference between a life of happiness, and a life of pain. The difference between a marriage of love, or a marriage of beatings. The difference between going to school with friends, or missing out. The difference between life, or death.
Will you help make that difference? Please donate now.
Photos: Jennifer Huxta/Actionaid