Warning: This story contains descriptions of female genital mutilation, which you may find very distressing.
At Shelter from the Storm we never shy away from the difficult cases. We found this guest a lawyer who is an internationally recognised expert in fgm and forced marriage. Our guest worked with our in-house counsellor and receives support from a network of other specialist services. She has now left the shelter and is in a place of safety. Help us help more people like her, go to: https://www.justgiving.com/sfts/donate/
I’m 27 years old, my family is educated and my parents are middle class graduates. I’d been living in the UK studying for my masters when I decided to go home for a holiday. I stopped off in Amsterdam and spoke to my cousin on Skype. I was horrified when he told me all the preparations had been made for my wedding. My engagement had been announced to an old man more than 30 years my senior. He already had 2 wives and grown up kids. Both families were expecting me to return and undergo female genital mutilation before the marriage. In my country all women must be cut; if you’re not, you’re not an accepted member of society. Where I come from they cut everything, the clitoris, the outer lips and the inner lips but they don’t sew you up. The procedure takes about 3 days. The women of the village take you to the forest and hold you down, one woman for each arm and leg. The old woman of the village then cuts away all your vagina and clitoris. In my dialect it is called “boinw”. There’s no anaesthetic, no painkillers, nothing. The old woman has no training; she uses the same knife on all the girls just giving it a wipe on a bit of rag between cutting. There’s no medical help so it’s not uncommon for women to bleed to death. There’s a big chance of contracting HIV and the percentage of women suffering life long urinary tract infections is huge.
Since I was small my dad had always protected me. He sent me away to live and study all over Africa because he couldn’t bear to have met cut. But, I guess the pressure on the family just got too great and he gave in. At the beginning of last year they went ahead and had my traditional marriage and ceremony even though I wasn’t there. Then they demanded I come back and do “the decent thing”, become a “proper woman” and stop bringing shame on the family. I’ve stopped all communication, all social media, all contact. My mother has been cast out from the family because they blame her for my behaviour. I’m frightened for them but I can’t get in touch – it makes me so sad. I miss them terribly but I’m not going to let them mutilate me; I’d rather die. If they catch me and cut me, I will kill myself.
When I feel safer, I’m determined to help other women and stop them being cut. This practice has to end and the world needs to know the terrible things that are still happening every day to their sisters.
Some details have been changed to protect the identity of our guest and ensure her safety.