I am a girl

10 February 2017

By Aminata Badiane Thioye

I find myself surrounded by questions. Questions I ask myself and want to ask you: why do girls and women always suffer more than boys and men? Are we destined to pain and suffering, for no reason other than being female?

From those thoughts, I rise up and choose to share our cry from the heart. A cry about a harmful practice that constitutes a great evil against us: FGM. Nowadays there are protests all around the world - using all means we have to fight FGM - during this International Day of Zero Tolerance Against FGM.

As a girl, I have to insist, for me and my peers, on the urgent need to break all taboos around this painful and illegal tradition that affects 25% of females aged 15 to 49 years old in Senegal. 25% who suffer silently from pain, disease and abandonment.

FGM is often justified by so-called “social norms”.

To people who say religion requires FGM – We say no - no religion commands FGM.
To people who say FGM aids fertility – we say no - FGM more often leads to infertility.
To people who say girls who are cut are pure – we say no - FGM has nothing to do with purity.

It is urgent to end all those clichés and misconceptions that prevent the elimination of FGM. Those misconceptions lead to ignorance – and cutting. As a girl, as a mutilated girl, I often have to face a tormented life – filled with bleeding, an intolerable physical and internal pain, fear, anxiety, difficult child delivery or even life-threatening infections. This suffering calls to the minds of us all. Because it shows the physical and psychological pains of the victims of FGM. A life of never ending nightmares.

Why do you let them cut us?

As a State, you are obliged to protect the rights and safety of your citizens, male and female.

We had a strong hope in 1999, with the creation of a law declaring FGM illegal.

But our joy was short-lived because this law has never really been applied. It is never easy to reform social norms – but every great change needs sacrifice.

We are also concerned about a new threat: the medicalisation of this practice.

We refuse to let this spread of FGM cases threaten the physical integrity of little girls.

We must fight the idea of a “civil and modern cutting” – we ask the State to take all necessary measures to prosecute this practice.

Why do you let them cut us?

Religious leaders, political leaders, NGOs, tribal leaders, public servants, citizens – you claim to support the rule of law, to hope for a sustainable way of life.

However, such goal cannot be reached by a country that allows girls to be cut and to have their fundamental rights scorned.

It cannot be reached by a country that does not care for women, their fulfilment, their self-esteem, or their health.

Sustainable development will only be achieved if you protect women from violence and harmful cultural practices and help them develop their potential for the benefit of our communities.

Why do you let them cut us?

As a girl, I come to hope that I would witness the end of FGM in a near future.

But a new threat is rising: the migration of FGM.

The international community must fight this, with all its power – especially the European Union, where approximately 500 000 girls and women are victims.

This threat calls for a debate on the idea of asylum rights for girls and women who face mutilation threats. We need to cooperate – let us work together, Africa and Europe aside.

As a girl, I stay positive that being a woman does not mean living a painful life.

Women are not supposed to be sad, weak and subdued.

We, as men and women, must all fight.

Because staying silent means conniving.

It takes a single fight to create a war.

We can – and we must – all fight!

Let’s fight!

Aminata Badiane Thioye

Head of Gender and Human Rights, ANJ-SR/PF

Alliance Nationale des Jeunes sur la Santé de la Reproduction et la Planification Familiale

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