Running away was the only way out
Nachai Esther lives in Karamoja, Uganda. When she was thirteen, her parents wanted to marry her off with a man. This also meant that she would be genitally mutilated. Nachai ran away.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is practised among the Pokot people in Karamoja, Uganda. It involves the clitoris and inner and outer labia being cut away. Afterwards, the girl’s legs are bound together to heal the wound. This kind of genital mutilation often gives rise to serious medical issues.
A violation of human rights
In addition to the obvious physical and psychological pain, it may cause infections and difficulties in having intercourse and giving birth. Genital mutilation is a serious violation of human rights.
Previously, FGM was a natural part of becoming a woman, but thanks to the work that Diakonia’s partner organisation ZOA is doing in this area, this picture is now changing. Nachai had heard what ZOA talked about when they visited her village. That’s why she knew that children have the right to attend school instead of being married off, and that FGM is both illegal and dangerous. This knowledge gave her the courage to escape.
Her father still wants to marry her off
“It was hard to run away. When people passed by, I hid in the bushes, and I cut myself on thorns,” says Nachai.
After Nachai had arrived at a friend’s house, she went with her to school in Amudat. Now, Nachai lives in the school’s boarding school, where she feels safe. She visits her grandmother in the school holidays. She still doesn’t dare to go home to her family, as her father still wants to marry her off. She is safe with her grandmother.
“I agree that FGM must be stopped, and I talk to my children and grandchildren about it. One of the girls has now got married without being genitally mutilated, which is a success,” says Nachai’s grandmother.
A second family at school
Nachai’s mother is also now convinced that FGM is wrong, and she visits Nachai at her mother’s house.
For Nachai her friends at the school have become like a second family.
“We help each other and give each other advice. We came to the school alone, and our parents don’t like us being here. We do our best together,” she says.
Nachai is daring to have dreams again:
“I want to finish school and then continue studying to become a nurse or midwife. I want to help mothers.”