For the last two years, the risk of CV-19 has led to a temporary suspension of the mass gatherings and community parades that form part of FGM ceremonies. As we move beyond Covid restrictions there is expected to be a surge in FGM cases across Africa.
For over 4,000 years, since the Babylonians offered the clitoris of baby girls to Gods to bring rain, Female Genital Mutilation has been part of the human tradition that has controlled females and their sexuality. The Egyptian Pharoah princesses in the Valley of Kings were cut, and for thousands of years the male nomads of Central Africa cut their women’s genitals and had their vagina sewn up with thorns from the acacia bush so they couldn’t have sex while they roamed with the animals. Centuries later, on December 19th, 2021, Maseray Sei a 21 year old mother of two, bled to death after she was mutilated. She was one of thousands cut over the 2021 Christmas holiday in Sierra Leone.
There are 200 million girls and women on this planet today who are living with Female Genital Mutilation. 4 million girls will be cut this year, with 1 million of them at risk during the month-long school holidays this Easter. Easter is one of Africa‘s biggest ‘cutting seasons’. When girls are cut, their legs are bound and they are left in a communal hut for a month, giving their wounds time to heal before they return to school.
Rugiatu Turay, herself a survivor of FGM and one of Sierra Leone’s veteran campaigners, says:
‘Women have been fooled to believe that FGM is good for them. They lure their daughters with the promise of buying them gifts to make them full-grown women. Most mothers cry in their rooms while their daughters are led to the darkroom or forest to be cut. Yes, they cry because they know what it means to be under the knife. They know the pain and suffering they undergo. They know there is shock, fever, excessive bleeding, tetanus and even transmission of diseases such as HIV/ AIDS but when it happens it is associated with witchcraft, evil, and demons. They know the pain to urinate, fistula and infections. They know the delay in labour.’
In some countries, catch-up cutting is already underway. During Christmas, 2021, in one small region of Kenya, Kuria, where the population is about the same as Glasgow, over 500 teenage girls were cut, despite FGM being illegal. The Global Media Campaign partnered with anti-FGM Activists on TV and radio and launched a campaign to stop an FGM surge during the Christmas holidays.
It worked. When anti-FGM media activists, blew the whistle nationally and globally by posting images of the girls being paraded in the street of Kuria, there was uproar in the country and the police were ordered to intervene, leading to 57 arrests in the final run-up to Christmas.
Jeremiah Kipainoi of the Global Media Campaign, who partners with activists says that ‘The media campaigns really forced the government and the police to take urgent action – 10 people have already been jailed. Others are still waiting to go to trial. In Kuria, the message went out to the community that the law banning FGM was going to be upheld. But, we know that preparations are underway for the Easter Cutting and we need to get back out there with the media campaigns and partner with the frontline activists.’
At the Conduit Club on February 3rd we will be hearing directly from anti- FGM media activists who are already organising #StopEasterFGMCutting
To date, anti-FGM media activists partnering with the Global Media Campaign have reached over 600 million viewers and listeners in 9 FGM countries since 2014: The Gambia, Kenya, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Somali, Ethiopia, Mali, Guinea and Liberia.
Over 1,000 media campaigners partner with the Global Media Campaign to End FGM – and in Kenya, a three year study has shown that support for the worst form of FGM has fallen rapidly since campaigns began in 2018, from 89% to 5%.
There is still work to be done, but it is possible and we can bring and end to FGM.
To find out more about the Global Media Campaign to End FGM and to directly support the frontline media activists who are ending FGM go to www.globalmediacampaign.org
The evening at the Conduit will be in memory of 21 year old Maseray Sei, a 21 year old mother of two boys who died after undergoing FGM in Sierra Leone on the night of December 19th.