“You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. And you have to do it all the time.” (Angela Davis)
Testimony from Guinea
« Hello everyone.
I am a woman of Muslim faith who lives in Conakry, Guinea, and works as a jurist. Here is the story of how my life drastically changed.
One morning during the holidays, when I was 9 years old, my mother called me in while I was playing. She asked me to come and wash myself because we were going to a birthday party. Like most girls, I liked the idea of going to a birthday party and having the opportunity to wear my best clothes.
Once I was washed and ready, we got into the car and drove to a place by the sea. It was not totally unknown to me as I often played there with my friends. After a few minutes, we arrived at our destination: a social housing building where hundreds of families lived.
It struck me as odd, and as we approached I did not hear music or children’s cries. Then I saw my cousin Mariame, who had also been told that she was going to a birthday party.
We went up several stairs and arrived in front of a door, which opened with three heavyset women who asked us to come in. I was young but not so naïve that the situation was suspect.
I looked my mom straight in the eye and asked her « Mom, where are we? What are we doing here? Why is there a hospital bed and injections and medication? »
My mom avoided my questions as if she was embarrassed. I was worried about seeing all these injections and hospital equipment. Mom and one of the ladies left my cousin and me on the balcony to go and speak in the lounge. Suddenly I heard « Undress them one after the other and make them sit on the bed ».
My heart jumped and skipped a beat.
The women grabbed me and threw me on the bed; they spread my body as if I was chicken… The first one grabbed my arms; the second one took my feet. At that moment, I realized something very wrong was going to happen to me, but I could not have imagined that they were depriving me a part of myself.
I started to yell as loud as I could; to call my mom but she could not bear my screams and tears and left the room. She complied out of the obligations that religion and tradition imposed on us.
It was done in a few minutes. I began to bleed and feel burning and itching… one of the women made me a bandage. She asked me to come down from the bed and said to me in the Soussou language « from this moment you become a woman and a real Muslim ».
This is how my excision was performed.
Indeed I had heard about and seen excised girls before the same happened to me without really understanding how awful and painful it was, I was just a 9-year-old girl. Nobody told me what was going to happen; I was just told that we were going to a birthday party.
In my country, it is said that a woman who is not excised is not considered as a good woman or a good Muslim. Therefore, to be respected and to get respect from people in your family and community, it is necessary to have a female circumcision or no man will want you.
A midwife performed my genital mutilation; I did not undergo any other violence like the ironing of breasts or other customs.
After, my cousin and I were given loincloths, these are what excised girls wear and are thus a sign of recognition of an excised woman. We were in pain for more than a month. It was horrible every time we wanted to have a pee… you can imagine the pain. All the girls in my family are excised, except the new generation who were born when excision was forbidden and recognized as dangerous.
In my case, I did not need to see a reconstructive doctor because contrary to many girls, my clitoris reconstructed itself and grew with time.
At the moment, I do not have any children, however, my biggest wish is to one day have some. I will never excise my daughters. I do not want them to undergo the same trauma as I, and to live with that experience for the rest of their lives. The bellyache, frequent pains in the lower part of the stomach, dreadfully painful periods, and worst of all, no orgasm during intercourse; some women become infertile. An excision that has been badly performed with unsterilized instruments can cause death or infertility for many women in my country and around the world.
30 or 20 or 10 years ago, the percentage of excised girls was so high it looked more like an epidemic than a customary practice. Nowadays with awareness campaigns about the harm of excision, many parents have abandoned this practice. However, some parents practice in secret, it is now completely forbidden and punished by law. My hope and wish is for this practice to become totally abandoned and for parents let their daughters grow up healthy. »
Testimony from Ivory Coast
A northern Ivory woman who hates excision and who is behind the spotlight denounces this practice with the means at her disposal!
The story takes place four years ago in Abobo Akéikoi, the most populous city of Abidjan, the economic capital of the Ivory Coast. Having witnessed the deaths of many of her comrades since her childhood, our lady decided to fight against Female Genital Mutilation, by denouncing it with all her energy.
Her denunciation saved the life of her neighbor’s daughter but unfortunately could not prevent the excision of forty other girls.
(Sylvia, ambassador for the eLLes in the Ivory Coast)
« My name is Coulibaly Matogman, I go by Mariam. I come from the north; my dad is from the north and my mother from the center of the Ivory Coast, Baoulé.
I am against these practices. When I see them, I go to the police.
I do not like excision because in Katiola, where I come from, they have done them to my classmates and some of them died because of it. There were several deaths, more than 60 girls who died after Female Genital Mutilations, including my sister’s sister-in-law. However, I had comrades who stayed in it (slang for continued to practice). When the mutilation is done to a woman, after pregnancy, her delivery is very difficult. These are the reasons why I’ve always hated this practice!
A family rented the house next to mine and one day the mother told me of her plans to excise her daughter. The little girl was not the only one to be excised that day; there were many. As soon as I was informed, I went to see Mrs. Irad Gbazalé Epse Coulibaly (President of the NGO “Femmes en Action”) to share what I knew.
Mrs. Coulibaly, in turn, alerted the National Commission of Human Rights (CNDH-CI):
« The commission had therefore moved security and law enforcement forces here to Abobo Akeikoi, who came armed. This deterred people who had come to take the girls to be excised.«
The excision was supposed to be carried out in Kenedy (district of Abobo commune) on more than 40 girls.
Mrs. Coulibaly also alerted another KABLI organization in Abobo.
“We mobilized to prevent this ceremony. »
Mariam then found the place the excision was going to be held and expressed if they continued, that they would be discovered. « After uncovering it, I told Mrs. Coulibaly, who spoke with the CNDHCI. That’s how the little girl was saved.«
« Unfortunately, the police’s arrival was loud and large like one from a Western movie and the excisor’s fled. Because of this, the excision of the other 40 girls also was not done. Since the girl we saved was no longer part of the group, we had no more information and the FGC was organized at another date, in another secret location. Unfortunately, we have not been able to save the forty or so girls who have been circumcised.«
Mrs. Coulibaly, President of the NGO Femmes en Action whose head office is located in Abobo Akéikoi did not fail to stress this: « We are always looking for the right method to get our hands on this group of people who organize the excisions. »
PS: Women in Action is an NGO promoting and protecting the rights of women and children; an NGO fighting violence against women and children in Côte d’Ivoire.