It is estimated that between 100 and 130 million girls and women now alive have been subjected to female genital mutilation, FGM. In Egypt, the World Health Organisation states that half of all girls between ten and eighteen years old have undergone FGM.
– Just like all the other girls in the village, I couldn't refuse. I hated the practice, but I didn't have the possibility to express my opinion.
Alia, who is quoted above, is 45 years old. She went through FGM when she was twelve with other girls living in the same street.
– Later when I was married I watched my sister-in-law go through FGM. She bled a lot and almost died. I started to question the use of FGM. If God created these body parts in girls, he created them with wisdom. Why should humans change what God has created?
Couldn't resist the pressure
No one in Alia’s community had answers to her questions. When her husband’s family said it was time for her first daughter to go through FGM, Alia could not resist the pressure. Her daughter bled for three consecutive days and had to go to the hospital.
– I couldn't forgive myself when I saw how weak my daughter was. I heard about an organisation – BLACD – that is working in villages to reduce FGM. They hold meetings for youth, women and men and they invite doctors and local religious leaders to talk about FGM. I went to all the meetings. I finally found people who support my decision and encourage me not to let my daughters go through this.
– Some of the people from this organisation visited me at home to raise the awareness of my family and my husband’s family. My mother and my sisters-in-law heard them talk. This made it easier to convince my husband and my mother-in-law to stop FGM in our family.
Receive training on child rights
Thanks to Alia’s resistance, her four younger daughters did not have to follow in their sister’s footsteps. One of them is 15, and she is active in a group that works against FGM. They have formed a choir and perform songs to raise the awareness of girls of the same age. Alia herself is active in a group of role models – women who are convinced that FGM should be stopped and who have chosen not to circumcise their daughters. They receive training on child rights and the protection of girls, and talk to others about how to stop this tradition.
– We have performed a play about the disadvantages of FGM. We move around the villages performing it, and we encourage all women to stop this practice. We also performed a play on child health and social rights. The work of the group convinced many families to stop practicing FGM.
FGM is a form of violence against women and a violation of their human rights. By supporting organisations like BLACD, Diakonia is working to end it.
Diakonia’s team in Egypt has shared this story as part of 16 Days of Activism against Violence Against Women