“I refused”: Brave women and girls take a stand against FGM
“It was a difficult decision, but I am happy because I don’t think FGM could make me happier than my education,” – Marie* (17).
Marie, 17, is a fierce leader, a child activist and an example in her community and school. Five years ago, she refused to stay silent when she learned that her mother was planning for her to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM).
As in many other communities in Sierra Leone, FGM is deeply-rooted in the Kabombeh community, to which Marie belongs. The practice can cause lasting harm, including pain, infection, internal bleeding, psychological repercussions and complications during child birth. FGM can even be fatal.
As Marie had learned about these consequences from local activists previously trained by DCI-SL in her village, she refused to undergo the procedure. However, this meant she would have to leave home and seek help in a neighbouring village.
Fortunately, after Marie left home, she ran into her uncle, who agreed to support her. In fact, he said, he would only support her education if she kept her stance not to undergo FGM.
“If I hadn’t had support, especially from my uncle, things could have gone wrong for me and it would’ve remained with me for the rest of my life,” she says.
Marie is not alone in this. In the community of Kabombeh, a number of individuals who have seen and experienced the consequences of FGM are now raising public and community awareness to bring an end to this harmful practice.
Soon after, DCI – Sierra Leone began operating in Marie’s community. With the UNICEF founded project, the organization raised community awareness about harmful traditional practices including child marriage, teenage pregnancy and FGM, and encouraged community members to mobilize against these practices.
Marie was one of the children who received training, support and help with accessing essential justice services. She is now a powerful advocate for the end of child FGM in her community.
Despite the obstacles, there is genuine hope in Kabombeh that FGM will be eradicated. With DCI-SL’s support, according to Marie, the practice is declining. “We are raising awareness about the effects of child abuse to bring an end to the practice for good,” she says.