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Stop abusing us in the name of culture

Thousands of Liberian girls are initiated every year.

Despite public support for the banning of female genital mutilation, commonly known as FGM in Africa and the rest of the world, millions of girls and young women still undergo this practice every year. My country Liberia is no exception. FGM, according to a World Health Organization definition, involves removing and damaging healthy and normal female genital tissue and hence interfering with natural functions of girls’ and women’s bodies. The majority of women who undergo such a harmful and inhumane practice are forced by their parents and or elders; some lose their lives while others are left to live with the permanent and traumatic effects.

As a young woman, I am of the opinion that this practice is out of date, inhumane and harmful and should be totally abolished. FGM started when few men thought women were nothing but sex partners who had no place in society but in the bedroom and the kitchen. To control them, they created this ideology claiming it was part of their culture. For centuries they succeeded in carrying out this dehumanizing practice because women were illiterate and uneducated regarding the health implications of such practices. Now the world has changed; studies have shown that FGM causes death, infertility, maternal mortality, increased complications in child birth, and a higher likelihood of contracting HIV. I believe it’s time we stop this practice.

According to a World Health Organization (WHO) survey, an estimated 92 million girls from 10 years of age and above have undergone FGM in Africa with 3 million at risk annually. With such a statistic, you can agree that FGM is indeed rampant in Africa. According to WHO reports, the prevalence rate in Liberia is at 60% despite the fact that Liberia is among 48 countries to sign the international Zero Tolerance Policy on FGM. According to a survey conducted in 2007, approximately 70% of girls have undergone FGM in Liberia. According to the Director of Psychological Division at the Ministry of Health in Liberia, FGM is a violation of human rights of women as stipulated in Article 24.3 of Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states, “State parties should take all effective and appropriate measures with a view to abolishing traditional practices prejudicial to the health of children".

FGM in Liberia is mainly carried out in the Sande School, a traditional school in rural Liberia. Most girls do not know what awaits them at the Sande bush because those who graduate are sworn to secrecy. I attempted to ask these girls about their ordeal at the Sande School, but while most told me they attended the Sande School, most were reluctant to explain their ordeal. FGM is mostly practiced in counties like Grand Bassa, Gbarpolu, Grand Cape Mount, Lofa and Bomi.

The long time argument for FGM is that it is a cultural practice handed down by ancestors. Others claim it discourages women from involving themselves in illicit sexual acts and gets rid of body parts on the female that are considered male or unclean.

We are in the 21st century and the world is changing. Back then our ancestors did not know the health implications of this practice, but now that we know why then do we continue this practice? Some say it discourages illicit sexual activities. I believe if we were to focus more on giving a girl an education that would solve the problem because with education comes the sense of responsibility, hopes of a brighter future and aspirations. Still another argument is that FGM rids girls of unclean body parts. Who are we to determine if something is clean or unclean when God made everyone in his image and likeness?

I know you now agree with me that FGM must indeed be abolished. Although the President of Liberia has openly condemned this practice, it’s time we make FGM a criminal offense as it represents a crime against humanity. With thousands of Liberian girls at risk of getting HIV, not getting a proper education, not to mention the sexual, traumatic consequences of such an act, what more proof do we need to show that FGM is indeed inhumane?

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 30 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

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pawani_rasmus's picture

FGM is a gross act of

FGM is a gross act of inhumanity...it should be banned strictly and offenders should be given severe punishments

usha kc's picture

Dear Laura,, I could not

Dear Laura,, I could not stop my tear when reading. so touching to know about the practice fo FGM. Its so crucial culture,,,,,in the name of culture we women should bear a lots of burdens,,pain,,.
should be stopped all these,,,

nilima's picture

Great to see the final post

Great to see the final post here Laura:):):) Finally ...sigh heheheh

congratulations !!!

ArtByMia's picture

Thank you ... Brave Warrior you are!!!

Thank you for such a wonderful article. There is nothing like world pulse where we can connect with women around the world and stay abreast of current issues involving women on a global level. I have a blog called Chamaca Arts and i will be showcasing and sharing stories all about women around the world and would love to showcase this article and a picture of you. Hope you will grant me the permission and share your voice with the rest of us.

Namaste, Mia

Laura Golakeh's picture

Hey

Thanks Mia.You can post it.No problem with that.

"Our time has finally come"

ArtByMia's picture

Thank you

Thank you Laura for sharing your voice. I will post this in my website very soon and will let you know when it posts so you can share it. As we share our missions, visions and voices we will created a movement of change and a circle of evolution and new growth.

Thank you for being a leader and one to be inspired by.

Love and light, Mia

Ruth Beedle's picture

Thank you

Laura;

Thank you so much for your heartfelt and very well written article concerning this atrocious act perpetrated not only against the girl-children that undergo the knife of ignorance and brutality that will change their lives forever, but by people - mostly women - who have been trained by a culture and society that what they are doing is not only acceptable, but right. It is the women who are - out of ignorance and habit - actually performing these mutilations that I am praying for compassion and education and enlightenment so that they can see into their hearts and know this must end forever.

We can pass laws and must. We can punish the perpetrators (both those that wield the knife and those that allow it to occur) of this violence and must. We can educate the young girls (and boys!) - in 'schools' that DON'T keep this crime a secret - and must.

And we must also educate the adult men and women who have been so numbed and brainwashed by lifetimes of 'this is the way it is done' that they don't see the problem. They must be helped to see the light of the horrors of FGM.

Thank you for your piece.

Ruth

One of Many's picture

very powerful piece, Laura

Dear Laura:

Such an excellent piece of writing, Laura. It gives statistics, background, and then your synthesis and argument at the end is extremely well done -- I love this:

We are in the 21st century and the world is changing. Back then our ancestors did not know the health implications of this practice, but now that we know why then do we continue this practice? Some say it discourages illicit sexual activities. I believe if we were to focus more on giving a girl an education that would solve the problem because with education comes the sense of responsibility, hopes of a brighter future and aspirations. Still another argument is that FGM rids girls of unclean body parts. Who are we to determine if something is clean or unclean when God made everyone in his image and likeness?

Excellent. And your diction and syntax are excellent.

You ended with an excellent way to end the horrible practice : put them in jail!

Thank you for sharing this valuable writing, Laura.

Anna

Speaking my Peace

Judy K's picture

Module 3 - FGM

Laura -

Your article was powerful and well written. You backed your opinions with facts and pointed to a solution -- women's education. Your piece also demonstrates the importance of journalism that informs the public and political world of on-going oppression. This is the first step toward actions that will rectify situations such as the continuing use of FGM in Liberia even after it has been outlawed.

I enjoyed talking to you via SKYPE. I'll call again soon.

Judy K

Judy Kugelmass

ssaeed's picture

I agree with you!

FGM is inhumane. Thank you so much for your article highlighting what Liberia has been doing in the fight against FGM. It's great to see so many leaders come out to speak against the act. I also agree that the government and local governance needs to also focus on educating women and men about the dangers of FGM. Let's hope more initiatives focused around raising awareness are utilized! :)

Thanks!!!!!!!

Sana

Sana

Rachael Maddock-Hughes's picture

Criminal

Dear Laura,

I really like your suggest that FGM be considered a criminal offense. It does not appear that outlawing it or signing a statement against FGM is enough---we need it to be a punishable offense! When you say "FGM started when few men thought women were nothing but sex partners who had no place in society but in the bedroom and the kitchen", it would be great if you could have added some historical background to the cause of FGM, or the current reason why it continues--for example, what are the social and economic affects if a girl does not undergo FGM?

Great job, keep up the good work!

Rachael

"In every human heart there are a few passions that last a lifetime. They're with us from the moment we're born, and nothing can dilute their intensity." Rob Brezny

Potter's picture

Brave, Strong Statement

Laura, thank you for your well written, well organized plea for the abolishment of a brutal cultural practice that endangers the lives and sexual health of all girls and women who undergo the practice. Your voice is loud and clear!

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