Feb 2019

Will you help us put an end to FGM today?

Posted by Samantha Andrades on Monday 18th February 2019

You never get used to hearing about little girls being tortured in the name of tradition.

Every story is horrifying. Every story deserves to be told. But every now and then, you hear a story that lingers in your mind for days after.

A story that haunts you and lights a fire in your heart. Faatuma’s story has been like that for me and I feel compelled to share it with you. Because without you, we can never put an end to this cultural practice that maims girls and leaves them emotionally and physically scarred for the rest of their lives.

But we must, so no other girl has to experience what Faatuma did:

“When I was a baby, my family made me such a tight FGM that I was unable to get my urine out normally — always, I must put pressure on my bladder. By the time I was 12 years old, I was continually in pain and sick because the area became infected and every now and then, blood and pus came out.”

Perhaps Faatuma’s story resonates so strongly with me because I have a daughter of the same age. The thought of her being subjected to this kind of pain and cruelty makes my stomach turn.

But that’s why I’m asking you to please join me in putting an end to this barbaric practice. Will you help our local partner the Afar Pastoralist Development Association (APDA) train more extension workers who can stop female genital mutilation for good? 

You see, APDA extension workers were visiting Faatuma’s village at the time and they saw how sick she was.

They convinced her father to take Faatuma to the Dubte hospital, where doctors operated on her and cleaned the wound that was poisoning her body.

The extension workers also told Faatuma’s family that she shouldn’t be married until she was much older, so her young body had a chance to heal. And for a while, Faatuma got better. But the damage caused by FGM stays with women for life. 

“By the time I was 20 years old, my family married me to my cousin; an older man on my mother’s side. I was very frightened of this, as I was sure I was going to get sick again."

“When I was 21 years, I was pregnant and at the time of delivery, the sickness came back — I was very ill and in pain. APDA women extension workers were constantly with me in the pregnancy … They tried to listen for the heart rate, but they said they thought my baby was dead."

“I was in huge pain and very sick with fever, so a health worker and three other men carried me for two nights on a homemade stretcher to Dubte hospital. They delivered the dead baby there and cleaned me again from all the pus and infection. This left me ill for four months.  I had painful urine and I was unable to go outside.”

No woman should have to go through such trauma because of an outdated and cruel cultural practice. But the key to ending FGM is through education.

Faatuma’s family didn’t know about the risks associated with FGM. They didn’t intentionally mean to harm their daughter. They were simply following custom.

That’s why training more APDA extension workers are so important. They are local Afar women who are trained and empowered to become agents of change within the community they come from.

This means they are best placed to end FGM, because they’ve grown up with the custom. They understand it, know the reasons why it has been justified for so many decades, and are able to debunk the myths, so the next generation isn’t subjected to it.

Like Faatuma, many have had FGM performed on them, so they can speak from experience in advocating for an end to the practice.

“Eventually I got pregnant again. This time, I was able to deliver the baby in the house with the help of a traditional birth attendant and health worker. I was so happy to see the baby was a girl, as I was able to immediately tell my family and the community that I will never let this girl be cut in any way.” 

Change is possible. It’s happening. But we desperately need your support if we are going to end FGM for good. It is possible for us to end the generational trauma of female genital mutilation, but we cannot do it without you.

Please give whatever you can afford so that we can help APDA train more extension workers and end FGM for good.

Thank you for all that you do!

 

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