What follows is the Prologue for a book I received while in the UK for my training. The book is called “The Day Kadi Lost Part of her Life”. It is a book about a young girl who is circumcised. I would recommend it to anyone, however it is a difficult read and has graphic pictures. I want to share with you just the Prologue which I think was very well written and explains briefly about the experience.
The sacrifice of genital mutilation which kadi experienced so early in her tender life has been going on in many parts of Africa for decades, even before the advent of Christianity or Islam. The practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) is a traditional one, endemic and culturally linked to many communities in Africa. This practice is detrimental to the health of women and the girl-child, who accept it without challenging the authority and tenets of its origin. The female population in areas where this practice is endemic have jealously guarded its secrets and are prepared to kill those women who are trying to highlight health hazards which prevent active participation in the development of family, community, country.
Kadi's story is typical of every little girl who lives in a community where to be loved, married, and held in high esteem requires you to be genitally mutilated. Failure to undergo the operation leads to harassment, ridicule, abuse, trauma, and eventual ostracism from one's community.
The attitude of the circumciser (buankisa) is typical of women who strongly believe they are doing Kadi a big favour by making her a marriageable commodity. The only role for African girls in that setting is matrimony with the eventual reproduction of children, which becomes an asset to her and the community. No man in that community is allowed to marry a girl who has not been genitally mutilated. FGM is the core prerequisite to matrimony, status, acceptability and peace of mind despite the fact that one's human rights have been violated and abused.
The fact that FGM, once performed, is permanent and makes the woman disengage from herself sexually, depressed psychologically, impotent and frustrated, makes no difference to the perpetrators of this wicked act, who strongly believe that they are acting in the best interest of the female child. The fact that many young girls die as a result of this practice makes no difference to their attitudes. Those who die are termed as wicked witches whom the community are glad to be rid of, hence the killing of chickens as sacrifice to appease the ancestral gods. The health of the girl is not taken into consideration, and she may be suffering from malnutrition, bacterial infection, or sickle cell anaemia and the circumciser is only interested in getting paid for work done, to maintain her status in the community.
In many African countries the practice of FGM is a political concern, and politicians seeking their own interest do not address this issue as it may cost them votes and the loss of parliamentary seats. As a result they turn a blind eye to the activiites of the circumcisers (buankisas) who boast that nobody can stop them and that they will continue the mutilations, even in private.
I believe that with constant information, education, communication and sensitisation programmes, and with the collaboration and cooperation of African governments, the prevalence and incidence of the practice will be drastically reduced. The African girl-child may be free from mutilation and child abuse sometime in the 21st century.
-Dr Olayinka Koso-Thomas 1998
Thank you for reading