** Please note the photo above is a stock photo and not a photo of the survivor.
It wasn’t until the age of sixteen, after embarking on a two-week life changing trip to my hometown, that my true calling was realized. Like any young teenager, I was ecstatic to travel and see my relatives for the first time. Unfortunately, the joy was short lived after arriving and realizing the true purpose for this trip. I was exposed to a horrible female genital mutilation experience, imposed by an unfair culture, and performed by an unskilled woman through inhumane and injurious practice.
The triangle of poverty, illiteracy, and ignorance exposed me to a savage cultural practice towards women. I was old enough to recall the endless pain and humiliation. I realized from the whispers around me at my relative’s house that something unpleasant was coming. I heard a conversation about protecting our honor and avoiding the potential shame that I may bring to the family. I still remember my grandfather objecting and arguing with my mother about the forthcoming crime.
When the day came, the noise of rituals and the vivid footsteps occupied all my senses. Filled with fear, I was determined to run away. So, I moved the ladder against the wall to escape this terrifying destiny through an opening in the ceiling of the small mud house. Unfortunately, I was powerless and helpless to escape my fate and I was dragged back to the living room.
They forced me to open my legs. My tears were not sufficient to plead for mercy. In a very barbaric way, a shaving razor passed through my clitoris and labia. The pain was excruciating, and the floor was soaked with my non-stop bleeding. Moreover, the practitioner stitched the labia with sewing threads to ensure that my virginity would be secured! At that moment, my childhood was ripped away and the trauma scarred my soul forever. I was in a shock for several months.
Living with the complications of the FGM had no doubt caused me pain and depression. Walking or using the bathroom was stressful because I had to be cautious with loops of threads dangling from my skin. As a result of that, I had countless episodes of genital infection. The piercing pain was managed with patience and silence, because I was frightened to be exposed and hurt again. Nevertheless, I am suffering to this moment from recurrent urinary tract infections and an overactive bladder.
Agony and shame were part of me for years. I had to be tortured because being a woman is a sin. In my community, women are portrayed as promiscuous creatures who are not trusted with their own bodies or sexual desire. Condemning this brutal act is rare in that culture. Unless FGM is associated with death of a new victim, this cruel practice is overlooked by the law system in my home country.
Being inspired by this trauma, I had decided to turn my personal struggle to progressive steps toward helping and enlightening women. I joined medical school and I had been trained to be women’s healthcare physician. During my service in labor wards, I have realized that we face a serious misinterpretation of this physical abuse. I had encountered victims of genital mutilation who were surprisingly insisting to have their labia sutured after giving birth! A narrow genital orifice is correlated in their minds to the husband’s satisfaction, with disregard to the pain they may endure during intercourse. This practice is sugar-coated and presented to the victims as a clue for happy marriage! Listening to these stories and my attempts to discredit these odd beliefs was so challenging.
I moved to California in 2016 with hopes and great expectations. I had my first corrective surgery that resulted in improving of my urinary symptoms. I still need to have reconstruction surgery. I am working hard to pursue my profession in the United States. My goal is to spread public awareness for this crime and become an advocate for women’s health to resist every faulty cultural practice.
This dream is becoming a reality from the moment I was introduced to AHA Foundation. The vital role of this Foundation to embrace FGM victims and provide them with the spiritual and physical support. I wish to be a member of the AHA Foundation and help to inspire and empower survivors to be part of the change in the community.