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A Future Without Female Genital Mutilation

Drawings of female genital mutilation

Personal experience

It seems that in Sudan anything is possible. For a girl to be circumcised one day and have the same operation repeated the next day because a grandmother or aunt is not satisfied with the cut, is sadly not uncommon.
I remember being forced to lie down on three old mattresses - two of them stretched on an “angareb”, which is a popular wooden bed, and the other one was plied under my torso. My midwife, Hajja Zeinab, sat on a low wooden stool.

As she faced my naked body, our eyes met. I tried to escape her firm look, but she immediately addressed me with caution, “Now you are a woman. A real woman never cries. Now I will remove this dirt and you will become very clean and a real Muslim,” she said.

Later I learned that this belief reveals the depth and core of the atrocity.
Several women participated in the ritual. Two of them took hold of my thighs, while two others firmly held my arms. One sat behind me and put my head on her lap. With her right hand she covered my eyes and as she put her left arm on my chest, she must have felt my heart beating fast because she said, “Honour your father’s name. Don’t be afraid. This is not painful. You have seen your sister and your cousins. None of them cried.” I didn’t utter a sound as tears ran down my face.

“In the name of Allah Most Gracious, Most Merciful,” Hajja said. She raised her fat hand, ornamented with some golden bracelets, and addressed the women around her. “Open her widely,” the midwife murmured, ordering the two women holding my thighs.

I felt the fingers of her left hand moving my nudity apart and then a sharp needle pierced my flesh up and down and in the middle. I cried at the top of my voice and tried to raise my torso and kick the two women who firmly held my thighs.“Oh Women, hold her firmly!” Hajja Zeihab cried.

Anesthetic resistant

Suddenly, she started cutting. The pain was excruciating. I cried like a mad person. In spite of having her head bent between my thighs I felt as if she was cutting in the middle of my skull. More women were called to help hold me down. Some of them nicknamed me coward. Others scolded me for being the only one among the four who had acted cowardly.

I was anesthetic resistant

Hajja called one of the old ladies over and asked, “Does everything look okay?”
No, no,” said the old woman, “cut this piece. Yes this one. And remove her clitoris. What is the use of it? And, remove the dirt. Do as I tell you.” I think that was grandmother Amna, doing her best to claim herself among the old women as the expert in the anatomy of young girls.

Again she went between my thighs and cut me with the razor. Have I said razor? I am not sure whether it was a razor or a kitchen knife. But I was sure of one thing, she wasn’t wearing gloves or covering her head. She wore only her white short dress. She was fat and stout and mowed my flesh with no mercy.
The stitches were the worst part. 9 stitches in all caused me pain and panic whenever I tried to move or urinated.

I was only 6 years old—too tiny to struggle

Pain and superstition

My sister, two cousins and I (all cut at the same time) were taken outside the excision room and showed the sea. A vision of the sea is believed to serve as a barrier against evil spirits. This evil could be caused by a sudden visit from a relative who might have attended a grievous incident such as contributing to the burial of a dead person and then surprise us with his presence without informing our mothers to take the necessary precautions.
This was believed to cast an evil eye, causing damage to the wound and hindering fast healing.
For the next seven days I cried out of pain, and suffered urine retention. I couldn’t urinate for the first three days following circumcision. Every time I wanted to pass water, I had to bite my lower lip and scream from between my teeth.

With a slight degree of difference, this same scenario repeats many times in a woman’s life, every time she gives birth. And this legacy of pain is transmitted from generation to generation even today.
“Female genital mutilation and cutting violates girls’ and women’s human rights, denying them their physical and mental integrity, their right to freedom from violence and discrimination and, in the most extreme cases, their lives,” stated the UNICEF report on the State of the World’s Children, 2009.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) mentioned that In Africa, about three million girls are at risk for FGM annually.

Between two atrocities

According to a UNICEF report, eighty nine percent of Sudanese women are circumcised.
Sudan ranks 5 among countries practicing this barbaric custom worldwide. WHO memtioned four types of FGM, but in sudan There are three types including Sunna ”removal of the prepuce”, medium ”Clitoridectomy” and Pharaonic “infibulation”, “see attached illustrations”.

The Fifth Population Census (2008) results have revealed that Sudan's overall population figure is more than thirty nine million people. The number of excided women is estimated at 14 million.
In spite of this horrible percentage, the Sudanese government last February legalized Sunna type.
Sadly, this decision came, last February, on the day when the world was commemorating International Day of Zero Tolerance of Female Genital Mutilation Day.

Does this practice need legalization?
That was the first question that came into my mind whereas my eyes went quickly over the news published in Sudan Tribune newspaper website.
“The Council of Ministers on February 5 dropped the article (13) of the draft Children’s Act of 2009, which provides for the ban of female genital mutilation as part of other customs and traditions harmful to the health of the child, and after approval of the draft Children’s Act 2009,” said the newspaper.

The newspaper went on saying “the cabinet decided to drop the article (13), which deals with female circumcision, taking into account the advisory opinion of the Islamic Fiqh Academy, which distinguish between harmful circumcision or infibulation (Pharaonic circumcision) and the circumcision of Sunna, a less extensive procedure.”

It is regrettable to say that the government decision was taken while a woman is on the head of the Ministry of health. No doctor was consulted. Also the memory of a tragic death of, Inaam Abdul Wahhab, a 4-year-old child as result of circumcision complication was still fresh. Three others had the same fate as Inaam's.

Instead people were encouraged to have their daughters cut according to Sunna, in specific centers already established for this purpose in different parts of the country. Sunna is used to refer to traditions.
With this decision, my dear homeland is taking three decades of voluntary work back to square one.

Ups and downs

Resistance against this practice started in the early 1940s. The practice was declared illegal in Sudan in 1941 but continued without interruption. Not a single incident of punishment was recorded even though about 90% of northern Sudanese women have had it done.
Successive national surveys between 1979 and 1983 recorded that ninety six percent of women have undergone FGM. In 1991, this percentage dropped to eighty nine percent, which matched with the UNICEF world report on children for 2009, showing only a drop of 7.3%. This gradual shift in public attitudes toward FGM was due in large part to efforts led by non governmental organizations(NGOs), Babikir Badri Scientific Studies Association on Women Studies(BBSAWS)and NCEHTP, in coordination with many other autonomous organizations and individuals. It is worth noting that BBSAWS was the first local NGO to shoulder the struggle against FGM in Sudan.
Several factors contribute to the prevalence of excision. On the top of the list are: the absence of a long-term strategy, no implementation of strict measures defending children against this practice, displacement and internal migration, the concentration of NGOs in urban centers, associating circumcision with Islam and the existence of beneficiaries who resist eradicating this custom by any means.

However, the government’s current stance is the major obstacle. Whenever FGM is legal, it destroys efforts undertaken by NGOs, turns ethnic groups into advocators and codifies the presence of groups who are officially supported to derive their livelihood from the profession, not to mention the propaganda they use to promote the profession.

Stigma and economic component

To be honest, in Sudan, it is women who shoulder the biggest responsibility for the excisions whether they are practitioners or supporters, whereas the majority of males consider it “women’s affairs.”

The severity of the cut depends upon personal request.
Mothers and grandmothers who were victims of circumcision, almost always request infibulations or the “Pharaonic” type of excision. The midwives, contrary to reality, claim that they only perform “Sunna”. Sunna, which is considered a lighter version of FGM, but is still barbaric, especially with successive deliveries.

Midwives, like Hajaa Zeinab, never fail to honour a client’s request. They work in accordance with the law of supply and demand, not the law of the land. By doing so, they involve women in a vicious cycle of circumcision, decircumcision (tasheem) and recircumcision (adlah). The latter is performed to tighten a woman after giving birth.

Moreover, midwives have their own means of propaganda and advertising this commodity. Whenever such a midwife is among a large number of women, she tells stories about uncircumcised girls being always dirty even if they spend the whole day showering themselves. Whereas circumcised girls are always described by her famous phrase, “waa halati,” which means, “what a nice girl!”

Psychological trauma

Azza, a woman’s rights activist and psychiatrist told me a devastating story about a young woman she met while studying for her Masters degree at the Psychiatric Hospital in Khartoum.
Upon discovering that his bride was excised, a husband took her to a midwife to re-open the labia majora to allow penetration of the vagina. The husband was then instructed to sleep with her within the same hour.
Azza recalled that the bride was traumatized. She told her doctors that although she believes sexual intercourse is a vital part of marriage, she cannot forget the pain and sight of her pooled blood from her husband forcing her to have sex with him just after the procedure.

A way out

The gloomy picture reflected by events of this story, don’t deny the light at the end of the tunnel.
Change is in process. Of course this will not happen overnight, but with persistence, proper education and consistency, change is attainable.

I believe that in order to stop FGM in Sudan (and worldwide), the civil society organizations, NGOs, artists, writers, dramatists, cartoonist, musicians, activists, media practitioners, physicians, the whole family, etc must continue to pressure governments to clear politics and back down on their decisions in favour of FGM, and have and support the views calling for the implementation of the Child Rights Conventions.
Additionally, these efforts have a greater chance of success if they line up with a long-term media campaign, enrolling all concerned and directed through private broadcasting.

Continuation of personal efforts is a must. I, for one, prevented my young nieces from having to endure excision and convinced two illiterate mothers to abandon the practice.

I believe that an effective cure for this disease will have to involve personal and collective trials discussions. Men and women who don't practice female circumcision need to come in the open, and not hide it.

“As a man I didn't find it difficult to say I am married to an uncircumcised woman, and my 22 year old daughter is not circumcised and this helped me in convincing many relatives and friends throughout more than 27 years." Mohamed Ahmed wrote in an email to me. I received his message with hope and great appreciation.

For the sake of my daughter from whose eyes beam a promising tomorrow and who brings seeds of change, I will continue to work at home and through the media to put an end to FGM.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 31 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most forgotten corners of the world. Meet Us.

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Comments

jap21's picture

Dearest Halima

I consider you as a blessing in my life. I had never met a muslim woman before. I am honored that you want to chat with me and be my friend.

Because I know you, I must let you know that what you did by posting this is a lesson to the world. Your courage to share all this with us makes me believe there is real hope for the girls in Sudan. Keep trying, keep raising your voice, we are here to cheer you.

I am a faithful believer that the love that you put on your endeavors makes other people change their minds. After reading your story, I am sure the love you are showing will make the people feel why they should take action. I hope everyone reads this. I wish you can post it in different media. We need to know all around the world.

Loving you, embracing you with a pure feeling of friendship,

Jackie

Jacqueline Patiño FundActiva
Tarija - Bolivia
South America
www.jap21.wordpress.com

Halima Mohamed Abdel rahman's picture

Sweet heart

Sweet heart Jackie,
Thank you so much for reading my post and sharing this valuable comment. Your words touch my heart and brought tears to my eyes. I love you too and i don't support passing a day without skyping with you. Wishing you all the best.

Lots of love,

Halima

hhhhamada's picture

You are an angel of change

Dear Halima,

I cried when I read your posting and Jacqueline's comment. You are very brave and a true angel of change. I stand in awe of your courage.

Love,
Helen

Love,
Helen

Halima Mohamed Abdel rahman's picture

My insipirational teacher

Dearest Helen,

The phrase "Thank you" is not enough to express my profound thanks and gratitiude .. You are my inspirational teacher, friend and my dearest mother, who has been encouraging and pushing me to carry on and on, without stopping or giving up.

Thank you GREAT WOMAN ..

Love and hugs,

Halima

misscarly's picture

Dear Halima

Dear Halima,

I stand in awe of your courage and your persistence to works towards change in spite of the pain of your personal experience. Your dedication to perfecting this article is the same characteristic that will bring attention and action to the issue of female genital mutilation. Thank you for sharing this with us and raising your voice.

with love,
carly

Halima Mohamed Abdel rahman's picture

Safe delivery

Dearest Carly,

Thank you so much for the valuable advice and continous encoruagement, valualube comments and continuous efforts to finish the story properly and (deliver) this article safely.

Thank you so...so much for valuable moments spent with me, especially during the week-end.

Lots of love,

Halima

luan's picture

Dear Halima,

Thank you for sharing your experience with us. You wrote an incredibly powerful and moving piece.
You will change lives and the world. You are an inspiration.

Wishing you love and happiness,
Luan

Halima Mohamed Abdel rahman's picture

Million thanks

Luan,

You made my day. Thank you for passing and sharing this comment. Wish you all the best and look forward to a world free of this kind of atrocity practised against females.

love,

Halima

jadefrank's picture

Moved beyond words

Halima,

You are so courageous and I am honored to know you here and to read your incredible story of pain, of injustice and of the commitment to change attitudes towards and stop the practice of female genital mutilation in Sudan and the rest of the world. Your story and your writing will change the way we think and act. Thank you for sharing this very personal and important story. We stand with you in solidarity and love.

Jade

Halima Mohamed Abdel rahman's picture

Stop this brutality!

Dear Jade,

I have the honour to have you among the whom I had known since started contributing to this huge websie that ensures women voice to be heard. Thank you so much for sharing this comment and for your stance against this harmful practice that cripples women throughtout their lives.

Love and hugs,

Halima

Legalisation of Female Circumcision in Sudan

Sudanese Women's Rights Group

Press Release 18 June 2002
Legalisation of Female Circumcision In Sudan

SWRG is gravely concerned about the intention of the Government of Sudan to legalize female circumcision in Sudan .

The information received by SWRG confirmed that on Wednesday 22 May 2002 a workshop was held in Khartoum , Sudan , organized by the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Endowment in collaboration with the Female Student Centre in Omdurman Islamic University. The conference was predominantly attended by government officals and supporters of the Islamic Government in Sudan . The workshop was entitled: Towards the legalisation of Female Circumcision & Establishment of Training Centers for Operators (excisors).
The workshop made the following recommendations:
. legalisation of female circumcision (FC)
. raise awareness about the importance of FC in the society
. support the efforts of the Female Student Center of Omdurman

Islamic University to establish centers all over the country for training practitioners (excisors) of FC.

The information we received also confirmed that there is strong support among government officials to implement these recommendations.

The consequences of Female Circumcision or Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) are serious and well known. FC/FGM causes not only physical and mental health problems, but can lead to death as serious infections often occur: it is estimated that thousands of women and girls may have lost their lives as a result of FC/ FGM.

In Sudan , recent statistics show that maternal mortality rate (MMR) is over 550 per 100,000 of normal child births, with one of the main causes of this high MMR being Female Genital Mutilation and its complications.

The rights to life, physical integrity, and basic good health of women and children, are basic human rights of the all human beings, including the people of Sudan . As such, FGM contravenes articles in many international human rights instruments, including:
. Article 2 of the UN Declaration of human rights
. Article 19 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child
. Article 21 of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child
. Article 1 of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women

The Sudanese women rights group urges the Government of Sudan to prohibit all forms of Female Circumcision. SWRG condemns the practice of FC/ FGM and considers that it constitutes a human rights violation according to the above mentioned human rights instruments. SWRG considers that FC/FGM is an inhumane and cruel practice which damages
the lives of women and girls and limits their human development.

Recommended action :
Appeals can be made to the persons listed below and should include the following:
. Expression of concern over the recommendations made at the recent workshop
. Statement that FGM/FC contravenes the prohibition the Universal Declaration of Human Rights/ Convention on the Rights of the Child and Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women.(CEDAW)
. Appeal to the Government of Sudan to adopt clear policies for the abolition of FGM/FC including legal, social, educational and health measures.
. Appeal to the government of Sudan to make available improved social and health care for those already damaged by FGM/FC.

The above recommendations should be sent in appeals to the following addresses:

His Excellency Lieutenant General Omar Hassan al-Bashir
President of the Republic of Sudan
President' s Palace
PO Box 281, Khartoum, Sudan
Fax: + 24911 783223

Mr Ali Mohamed Osman Yassin
Minister of Justice and Attorney General
Ministry of Justice
Khartoum, Sudan
Fax: + 24911 788941

Mr Mustafa Osman Ismail
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
PO Box 873, Khartoum, Sudan
Fax: + 24911 779383

Dr Ahmed al-Mufti
Advisory Council for Human Rights
PO Box 302
Khartoum, Sudan
Sudan
Fax: + 24911 770883

Halima Mohamed Abdel rahman's picture

Any recent activities?

Dear Ameena,

Welcome sister..
Thank you so much for providing this important newsletter, which reflects the strong stance and advocacy of this group.
I would be grateful if you would kindly keep us posted about any new developments concerning recent decision taken by the government to legalizing FGM.

As it is indicated the date of this newsletter goes back to 2002, has the Sudanese Women's Rights Group (SWRG)taken any action to manifest its denial of the cancellation of article 13 of the child code draft or any activity to contribute to increasing public awareness of FGM's risks on women's presence and future?
Any projects,workshops or activities to raise society's understanding of impacts of FGM on females' lives?

Regards,

Halima

Khushbu's picture

Salute you

Hi Halima...

I realized just today how incredible you are! You are such a strong woman...i cannot imagine being treated one percent of how you have been...and despite everything, you and thousands of women move on..with the courage that awes me...

Why is the world so unfair?

But i know, you are there to bring the change...your story is really powerful....it gave me goosebumps throughout....

Keep spreading the message,...journalism certainly is powerful..and it will help us all bring the change..

Amen
Khushbu

Khushbu Agrawal

Halima Mohamed Abdel rahman's picture

Messages..messages

Dear Kushbu,

Closure on the past is a slow death and am not that type...As long as the sun rises every day, threre is hope to destablize this practice and save young girls' lives. We must not stop fight and lose the battle and faith in ourselves, presence and future ..
I have an idea but don't how how to carry out..We are 31 trained correspondents ..if each one make a message denouncing this custom and send these messages later to local and intenational communities.. what will be the reactions?

Think about it and come back later tell me..

love,

Halima

giftypearl.abenaab's picture

Strong woman

Everyday, i hear voices speaking about harsh systems, policies and inhumane acts against women's development.
You are another strong woman and voice. Keep the good work and i know we will see a Sudan free of FGM soon.

Gifty

Gifty Pearl Abenaab
Founder
Greight Foundation
www.greightfoundation.org

Halima Mohamed Abdel rahman's picture

Million thanks

Dearest Gifty,

your words touch my heart and make me happy.. you made my day sister..thanks a lot.

Love and hug,

Halima

Nusrat Ara's picture

Dear Halima. I just couldn't

Dear Halima.

I just couldn't read. I felt something tearing me apart from inside as I tired to read your tale. I had to take breaks. What really disgusts me is that it is a woman who is the midwife and performs the FMG and it is the women of the family, a grandmother, mother or some relative who sit over the ceremony instructing how this ghastly act should be done.
I wish there were more people like you who would put an end to it.

You have my support and best wishes. Keep up the good work.

I wish I could do something about it.

Lots of Love

Nusrat

Halima Mohamed Abdel rahman's picture

This is done out of love!

Dearest Nusrat,

Grandmothers, mothers and relatives, repeat this practice out of love..Yes.. believe me ..out of love!!
They believe that this is done as an initiation to womanhood.. finishing tips..signs of beauty and hygiene. This practice flourishes because it derives its streignth from being associtated to Islam and Sunna. Public believes and repeats this. Thought prophet Mohammed (PBUH) and his earliest followers hadn't been reported had this habbit done to their wives, daughters, nieces or relatives.
As you know overcoming this practice will not happen over a night and day. It needs to have all society engaged in the fight .. It nees above all, official support, which is not the case in Sudan.

Thank you so much for sharing these comments.

Love,

Halima

JaniceW's picture

You are right, it is out of love

My dearest Halima,
I understand now how the mothers and grandmothers want the best for their daughters and see this as a step towards a more promising future, a future where FGM is valued. However, just as this act is perpetuated because of love, so can a new way of thinking be formed because of love. Thinking that places value on the young girl's mind and beauty of spirit, rather than on the physical. Thinking that values education as a path to womanhood. Thinking that says you, as a young girl, have so much to offer the world, just as you are – with no need to alter you in any way. It will be a slow journey but you have taken those important first steps and your actions have already seen a ripple effect amongst your family. Those ripples will indeed spread and one day, FGM will be remembered as something of the past.

Let us all pray that that day will come in our lifetime. With love and respect,
Janice

Dearest Janice,

Thanks so much for supporting me throughout this program. I like the approach you suggested for tacking this issue. LOVE. I suggest PATIENCE, DEDICATION AND UNDERSTANDING.

But (by the way, I don't like this but) In the case of my country, we need more than love, because this process has been legalized and backed by the government since last February. And Sunna type is now officially supported (go back to Ameena newsletter published among these valuable comments on the subject and you will discover the dimension of the tragedy and the measurements taken by the government to guarantee implementation and spread of "safe" right type, as it claims. it is essential to pressure groups.

Going back to your argument. love, raising awareness, education, bringing this issue to public discussion, etcetera, are majors factor in putting an end to this crime.

That must coincides with the selection of right knowledgeable local people who will shoulder this task carefully, peacefully and patiently.

The cure process must include all community members including males, victims and practitioners.

Dearest Janice,

FGM is an old cultural practice dates back to at least 16 centuries ago, it is practiced by all members of communities, but is widespread among Muslims. I recently read some articles stating that migrants brought FGM to the United States of America, and it is practice under ritual beliefs.

Far from formal support, I believe this practice will disappear one day. It actually did among Sudanese elite.
I remember one more thing.. in this post I attached a photo of a Sudanese midwife. Look at the scars on her checks and the tattoo of her lower lip. In the past, these signs which done by ignorant practitioners, were considered important tools and signs of beautification and tribal distinction. they differ from a tribe to another. But with the help of media and religious pioneering scholars, they have disappeared in most parts of Sudan.

love and hugs,

Halima

Nusrat Ara's picture

Forgive me but I am tempted

Forgive me but I am tempted to say Out of Love- My foot. You know there is wise saying used often here ' it is a woman who makes the live of a woman miserable' I have often found this so true. And we are doing this in the name of religion. We often mix culture and religion. FGM is a cultural practice and there are lot of things in our culture here also which we think of as religious. Why do we lack the understanding and why do women have to bear the brunt of these misinterpretations.

We are taught to be submissive, to be meek, to always compromise, to tolerate everything , to be shy, to suffer violenceand much more all in the name of love. And it is a woman teaching this is the ultimate tragedy because she is the only one who can understand how it feels

Nusrat

Halima Mohamed Abdel rahman's picture

Dearest sister Nusrat,I

Dearest sister Nusrat,

I experienced your feelings when I was reading the story of the Somali little girl.. Believe me I tried three times to finish the story. Every time I failed, though I was in the same position as her. It seems that we need to see the matter through some body's ,mirror. I did.

Thank you so much for raising the issue of submission, tolerance and compromise..It doesn't matter which is which..males or females (actually sometimes it matters). Since we are Muslims we are all supposed to be submissive, and brought to be so, which is not supposed to be so.

I aboustely aggree with you that women are responsible in many cases of the misery in which other women evolve. In spite of this i do sympathize with them because they, too, are victims of ignorance, illiteracy, ubringing..etecetra.

Dearest sister,

Fighting against FGM, in Sudan now, means fighting against RELIGION AND CULTURAL IDENTITY...A difficult combination..Most people will not give up easily. THIS IS THE HEART OF THE PROBLEM.

Love,

Halima

Below is an eyewitness account of what is done to all Somali girls because men still

today refuse marriage with an uninfibulated, or what is called "open", bride. And without
marriage there is no future for a girl:

The child, completely naked, is made to sit on a low stool. Several
women take hold of her and open her legs wide. After separating her
outer and inner lips, the operator, usually a woman experienced in this
procedure, sits down facing the child. With her kitchen knife the
operator first pierces and slices open the hood of the clitoris. Then she
begins to cut it out. While another woman wipes off the blood with a
rag, the operator digs with her sharp fingernail a hole the length of the
clitoris to detach and pull out the organ. The little girl, held down by
the women helpers, screams in extreme pain; but no one pays the
slightest attention.

The operator finishes this job by entirely pulling out the clitoris,
cutting it to the bone with her knife. Her helpers again wipe off the
spurting blood with a rag. The operator then removes the remaining
flesh, digging with her finger to remove any remnant of the clitoris
among the flowing blood. The neighbor women are then invited to
plunge their fingers into the bloody hole to verify that every piece of
the clitoris is removed.

This operation is not always well-managed, as the little girl struggles.
It often happens that by clumsy use of the knife or a poorly-executed
cut the urethra is pierced or the rectum is cut open. If the little girl
faints, the women blowpili-pili (spice powder) into her nostrils. But
this is not the end. The most important part of the operation begins
only now. After a short moment, the woman takes the knife again and
cuts off the inner lips (labia minora) of the victim. The helpers again
wipe the blood with their rags. Then the operator, with a swift motion
of her knife, begins to scrape the skin from the inside of the large lips.

The operator conscientiously scrapes the flesh of the screaming child
without the slightest concern for the extreme pain she inflicts. When
the wound is large enough, she adds some lengthwise cuts and several
more incisions. The neighbor women carefully watch her 'work' and
encourage her.

The child now howls even more. Sometimes in a spasm, children bite
off their tongues. The women carefully watch to prevent such an
accident. When her tongue flops out, they throw spice powder on it,
which provokes an instant pulling back. With the abrasion of the skin
completed according to the rules, the operator closes the bleeding
large lips and fixes them one against the other with long acacia thorns.

At this stage of the operation the child is so exhausted that she stops
crying but often has convulsions. The women then force down her
throat a concoction of plants.

Halima Mohamed Abdel rahman's picture

Stop FGM

Ameena,

It is regrettabel to say that the situation of somali women regarding FGM is similar to that of women of my homeland.
Am so sad.. so sad..this practice should be stopped right now.
Thank you for providing ur email.. I will keep contact with you..

Emma Miriam's picture

Change is possible

Dear Halima,

Thank you so much for sharing your story and for openly discussing such a sensitive issue. I am a volunteer who has started the Female Genital Cutting News Blog at http://fgcdailynews.blogspot.com/ to track all news stories related to the practice of FGC, as I feel that awareness and education are the first steps towards change. I would also like to mention that success stories are out there- especially the work of Tostan, an NGO based in Senegal and working in 8 countries in West and East Africa (www.tostan.org). Their respectful approach and human rights-based, community-led program has led to the abandonment of FGC by thousands of communities across West and East Africa. A recent UNICEF evaluation shows that it's really working, and the international community is increasingly following this model, which is exciting since so many are impacted by this practice.

Thanks again for discussing this important issue!

Emma

Dear Emma,

Nice to meet a volunteer woman with rich experience in this field. Congratulation for the success of your continuous efforts to eradicata this practice. Senegal is considered among the most African countries witnessing steadily fast decline of this practice. Mabrook (CONGRATULATIONS).

I browsed the link of the tostan website and discoved that my country is among the 10 African countries included in the holistic 30-month education program. This a good opportunity to have contact and cooperation, if there is any, with dear sister Ameena who has contributed to this issue by publishing the newsletter issued in 2002 by the Sudanese Women's Rights Group (SWRG)

Love,

Halima

jodelight's picture

heavy heart

Dearest Halima,

My eyes welled with tears as I read your entry. I know that female genital mutilation is still done in many parts of the world, but I have never read someone's personal story. From the deepest places of my heavy heart I want to thank you for sharing your life story, and your knowledge of this. I can see that this extremely painful act has not hindered your will to change these practices and make a better life for women everywhere. Thank you for providing much needed knowledge about FGM to all of us. You have moved me to do whatever I can, to be a voice in stopping this act. Thank you also for explaining why this practice is done. I understand that it is part of a set of customs and beliefs. Practices that have been done for ages of time are very difficult to change. I know that this can change. Thank you for giving so many women a voice about this issue.

I send you a warm embrace near sister.

in solidarity,
Jody

Halima Mohamed Abdel rahman's picture

Dear Jody,"You have moved me

Dear Jody,

"You have moved me to do whatever I can, to be a voice in stopping this act"

You made may day..Your sentence which I have quoted above has a magic effect on me. it has filled me with joy and happiness

Having gained an understanding and loving person who his willing to fight against this practice was beyond my expectations.. I am so delighted . I can address victim of this atrocity telling them that I have voiced difficulties facing them and that "some ones are listening and reacting".

Again thank you so much..

Lots of love,

Halima

ameenabeegum's picture

your email id

Dear Halima

I would like to know your email address
Where are you now ?

with love
Ameena beegum

Halima Mohamed Abdel rahman's picture

sent

Dearest Ameena.

Email address already sent.

Halima

Sharese's picture

Wow. Thank you.

Halima,

Thank you very very much for sharing your story, information about FGM and giving hope and advice on how we can press ahead to end this horrible practice.

You are a strong, brilliant light! I too believe that talking, and dramatizing, and talking, and making art, and talking, and screaming out, and letting our voices be heard, in having a dialogue and in talking and talking and talking about the situation (especially to those in power) is how we can begin to move forward to a world without FGM.

You, are wonderful. Thank you again for your story, your information and most of all your inspiration.

Peace and love,

Sharese

Halima Mohamed Abdel rahman's picture

Many thanks

Dear Sharese,

Million thanks for reading my post and sharing these comments, which i appreciate so much.
Fighting against social practices is the toughest fight. You gave me a strong push tonever give up the fight and continue fighting to the last day of my life. This is not an individual suffering.. Regrettably it it is mass suffering.. An endless generations of suffering with slightest or no glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel.

WE SHOULD STOP THIS PRACTICE BY ALL MEANS.

love,

Halima

julia sawi's picture

no more

I couldn't read all of it at once , I had to read each part separately .
I gess no word can describe what I feel , and THANK YOU VERY MUCH now I know the ugly , sad and disappointing truth .

Dear Julia,

Thank you so much for reading my post and sharing this comment. I am so happy that you have joined this great website and am quite sure that you will enjoy every moment you pass here. I khow you are am ambitious young girl and you have a lot to say.

Lots of love

Halima

busayo's picture

YES, WE WILL FIND THAT FUTURE

Hi Halima,
I will like to join others and say indeed you are an agent of change. I know by God"s grace we will find that future
when this urgly situation will be a thing of the past. You are already treading the part that lead to that future by your courageous posting. Even though my own mutilation was done when i was a baby, the impact is still there in so many ways. I know one day light will surface at the end of the tunnel. Thanks very much for your story, God will continue to strengthen you.

Busayo Obisakin
Women inspiration Development center
Ile-Ife, Nigeria
busobisaki@yahoo.com
womeninspirationcenter@gmail.com
http://womeninspirationce.wix.com/widcng

Halima Mohamed Abdel rahman's picture

Toward a world free of FGM

Dearest Busayo,

I 'm so sad that you have joined me in undergoing such a terrible experience, and quite sure you will already have started changing the situation, starting from your own family..
Although the journey will be very very long.. i'm quite sure one day our ancestors will enjoy a world without FGM and that the future will be much more sweeter and free of such atrocities.
let us start from now and work toward a world free of excision..

Love and hugs,

Halima

Lycia Ora's picture

Querida Halima - Thank you

Querida Halima -
Thank you for your courage and bravery in sharing your story with us and having us bear witness to your pain, which is now our collective pain. FGM continues to be a form of sexual violence inflicted on so many girls. But as they pointed out so bluntly in the recent human rights film "Mrs. Goundo's Daughter", unless you attack the cultural assumptions that allow such a vicious practice to continue to exist, laws will be avoided, circumvented, and unenforced. Your courage in speaking out about this is helping to do just that - challenge the culture and spark much needed dialogue.

Thank you -
Natasha

Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan

Halima Mohamed Abdel rahman's picture

social component

Dear Natasha,

You made my day... thank you so much for sharing this important comment which draws my attention to the social factor. Yes we should concentrate on atrocities supported and legalized by cultural notions. in my country cultural component is the most strongest factor..future fighting needs an intelligent tactics, especially with recent development which associated it with religious concepts..

love,

Halima

This is a copy of a mail i received from my friend
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Circumcised while working in Somalia

At the age of 23 (in the 1970s), I took up a teaching post with a VSO type organisation near Mogadishu in Somalia.
It was on the last week of school that I was introduced to Wallanna, a small lady who spoke no English. She did not look
like much of a midwife, but was presentable enough. She asked through Abdi when my period was due which I thought was an
odd request. When I said it had just started, she said the operation would be in 5 days. This was the first time I had
heard Abdi use the term ‘operation’ and I felt decidedly uneasy. I had to pay for it in advance, which I thought was a bit
off. It was on the Saturday that Abdi, Wallanna, and four other women arrived at my apartment. I felt really nervous, they
were all very quiet. Talking through Abdi, Wallanna said I was to lay a plastic sheet on the bed as there would be
some blood. I had not prepared for this at all and only had bags for household waste. The other women made up the bed
while I was told to undress which felt highly embarrassing. When Wallanna saw me undressed she called to Abdi, who said
I should have been shaven. By now I felt frightened, but was not really in a position to back down. Abdi shaved me, looked
on disapprovingly by Wallanna, saying that all pubic hair should be removed once a week. I was then led over to the bed
which was half covered in black plastic, and told to lie on my back towards the foot of the bed with my knees in the air.
Wallanna opened a well used doctor’s briefcase and pulled out a small plastic box. I could see various instruments, but no
syringes. I asked about anaesthetic, but Abdi said that there would be no need. I was getting really apprehensive. I had
to pull my ankles right up towards my bottom, then I saw why Wallanna had brought so many ‘helpers’. One grabbed hold of
each leg, and one each arm. It was like being held in a vice. Abdi put her hands on my shoulders and told me to keep as
still as possible. I simply couldn’t believe I had ended up in this position. I suppose I could have 'called a halt', but
for whatever reason, I didn't. Wallanna started prodding and pulling at my genitalia then suddenly I felt an incredible
pain which just seemed to get progressively worse and worse. It was like my vagina was being sawn away. I remember the
pain coming in waves not unlike what I later experienced during childbirth, where the pain reaches a sort of ‘plateau’.
I don’t remember screaming but I am sure I must have.
I closed my eyes and just wished it would finish. Being overwhelmed by such agony was like going through a dark, dark tunnel,
desperate to get to the end. Although I was held firm, Abdi said later that I remained absolutely rigid. After what seemed
like an age, I thought it was over. I opened my eyes to see Wallanna with a needle. I didn’t say anything and closed my
eyes again. I don’t think I passed out although I don’t remember Wallanna or her assistants leaving. Abdi brought me some
water, and suggested I sit up. I tried and immediately fell back again. The area between my legs was in agony, and moving
made it worse. Eventually I forced myself to get up so the bed could be made with clean sheets. I collapsed down and went
to sleep. When I awoke, Abdi was gone, and I needed to go to the toilet. Walking was difficult, and all around my vagina
felt like it was on fire. Urinating was unbearable. Abdi came back just as I was getting back to my bed. She said that all
was well but that I should not move my legs too much; as if there was any danger of that.
I had six stitches, and these were removed by Abdi after the first week. She said that the operation went perfectly,
that I should be proud to be a ‘clean women’ and that Wallanna was an excellent midwife as she was one of the few to
use a needle and thread as most still used thorns. Looking back, I don’t ever remember being angry with Abdi for being
less than frank about what circumcision involved, probably because I think she had acted with the best of intentions, and
I certainly couldn’t fault the care she gave after the operation. It had been conscientious and heartfelt. I did ask
however why she didn’t tell me that circumcision would be so painful. Her reply was very profound, deliberate, and has
stayed with me all these years; Pain is a part of life, and bearing pain gives a woman strength. After nearly three weeks
of Abdi looking after me, I finally looked down at the result. Although a lot of the pubic hair had grown back I could see
that I had a thick scar where my vagina had been. There was a hole left near my perineum, about the size of my index
finger. It was many months later before I found out the proper name for my ‘minor operation’ was infibulation. The sewing
up of my vagina was to preserve my virginity which was ironic I had already experienced a long sexual relationship before
starting my teaching post. I remember Abdi using a very Christian term to describe why my vagina had been closed; it was
to prevent ‘sin’, and I suppose I did feel for the first time that perhaps my earlier sexual relationship had been a
mistake.
I left for my summer break several weeks late, having told my parents that I was 'sightseeing' . It took about 8 weeks for
the scar to heal completely, although I was never inclined to open my legs too far or even touch the scar. I think it was
then that I realized that the operation had made more than just a physical change. I felt apathy towards sex. I had always
felt a ‘physical desire’ of some sorts but this was now completely absent.
When I returned to Mogadishu I was ‘respected like a hero’, and perhaps only then did I begin to think of my sacrifice as
being worthwhile. The second year went very fast. I loved it, and was truly sorry when I had to leave.
I had planned to 'open' the infibulation when I finally returned home, but for various reasons I left it intact. Six months
later, I got a job as a teacher, and began courting a man who later became my husband. After a year of courting, we
decided we would marry. When I explained my state of ‘chastity’ to my husband-to-be he was completely supportive, and
after some discussion we agreed that there would be no pre-marital sex, and that my vagina would remain closed until our
marriage, which was 11 moths later. Although I was no virgin, I enjoyed feeling chaste.
Originally, we had both thought that the infibulation should be opened some weeks before our wedding but this simply
never happened, and in the end, the scar was cut through on our wedding night by my husband with a scalpel. This proved
not as painful as I expected as the scar tissue was not sensitive and was quite thin. Our first sexual act was quite
uncomfortable, and not without blood, but within a week all was fine.
As I was now in a position to see inside my vagina, I read up on female anatomy so as to understand what had been removed.
I had no clitoris, surrounding prepuce, or inner labia. My outer labia had also been cut back to allow the sides to join.
The inside of my vagina was smooth and rather dry. I couldn’t really make out where the various bits had been so perhaps
Abdi was right about Wallanna’s skill as a surgeon. I can see why a circumcised vagina is often described as ‘clean’, and
with that thought in mind, I took a razor and shaved off all my pubic hair, which I have done once a week ever since. Abdi
had suggested I should never touch inside my vagina, and apart from that one ‘inspection’, I never have.

Oh my guard! My guard! I am speechless...I don't know what to say.. It seems this lady is crazy to allow having herself circumcised at this age! Why did she choose to be severed At 23 YEAR-OLD? impossible. I would like to know some information about her...her nationality? cultural background? status of education? why did she accept to have this operation done on her while she seemed empty headed of the post circumcision complications: urinating, marital relations or " apathy towards sex", delivering a child and above all:REPETITION OF RE-INFIBULATION WITH EVERY DELIVERY, AND MAY BE ON very HONEY MOON FIRST NIGHT.

I will be back to this story soon after with deifferent mood.

Nusrat Ara's picture

Congratulations dear.

Congratulations dear.

Nusrat

Halima Mohamed Abdel rahman's picture

Thanks friend

Dearest Nustrat,

Thank you so much dear friend.

Love

Halima

giftypearl.abenaab's picture

Congrats Halima

Congratulations Halima!

Gifty Pearl Abenaab
Founder
Greight Foundation
www.greightfoundation.org

Halima Mohamed Abdel rahman's picture

Dynamic journalist

Gifty,

You are a dynamic journalist with bright future..thank you so much.

Love,

Halima

mamaAfrica's picture

Congratulations

Hello Halima

Congratulations!!!! Keep it up.

mamaAfrica

Halima Mohamed Abdel rahman's picture

Admiring your great article

mamaAfrica,

Dearest Grand Royal of mother Africa, thank you so much. You have written a great assignment. I read it many times . every time I admire you journey and struggle to build your character and have a prominent career.

Love,

Halima

Oh, Halima. My dearest Halima. I read your frontline journal and i was touched. No wonder why the editors selected your journal for publication. I would have done the same and i would put your story as the lead story.

Powerful, shocking and toutching is how i would describe your Frontline Journal. You made me experience the pain that you went through in "the name of love" or to make you "clean". Your journal has clearly reaveled that culture and religious beliefs can be used to violate women's sexual rights. Women have little or no body control. No women should ever go through this horrific experience.

I could even feel the "fat hands" of the woman who cut you and the other holding my thighs. I felt imprisoned and powerlessas you lay on the old matresses with your head on that woman's lap.

But, Halima, you showed that you have the power to change the world and being selected as one of the correspondes is one of the indicators. This is symbolised by the way you kicked and screamed as the three women violated your sexual rights unlike the other who did not scream.

Let me say that your Frontline Journal is screaming and calling for the world to end FGM and the violation of women's sexual rights.

Well done!

With lots of admiration and respect.

Gertrude Pswarayi

Dearest Gertrude,

Thank you so much for your rich and intense comment. Congrats for your assignment of month 1 ...Let me tell you something dear Gertrude, I am one of your fans. I admire your writings and the informative rich way in which you express your ideas and thoughts.

Unfortunately this practice is carried out on girls when they are so young and week to defend themselves or express their rejection. Unfortunate that parents are the ones who strive to have this custom carried out on their daughters, bearing in mind that they are doing them good because-as they believe- this inalienable part of their femininity, faith and cultural identity.
As victim of such harmful practice, i will do my best to fight against it by all means.

Love and hugs,

Halima

rahma's picture

STOP IT

dear Halima
I cant stand to read your post..it hurt.
To make a girl clean?
In the name of Allah...that's brutality
I am a Moslem, but in my country there's no such ritual like this

we can make the world to change

Love- Rahma-

rahma

Halima Mohamed Abdel rahman's picture

We should stop FGM

Dear Rahma,

Thank you so much for reading my article and sharing this comment.

As you know this practice has nothing to do with religion.. It is a cultural practice that humiliates women and renders them into mere objects. Unfortunately it is practiced worldwide, among Muslims, Christians and animists. It is high time to stop it.
We should work hard to stop it right now.

Love,

Halima

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