Guewaratou: Standing up to FGM in Burkina Faso

She was already showing all signs of a true leader. She was the one lifting everyone’s  mood,  while ensuring everyone was on the list and ready to go.

Guebless: A true leader 

The first time I met Guewaratou, a.k.a Guebless, it felt like a déjà-vu. It was on July 16, 2017, not long before the National Youth Tour Against FGM left the Department of Social Affairs. She was already showing all signs of a true leader. She was the one lifting everyone’s mood, while ensuring everyone was on the list and ready to go.

I finally managed to meet Guewaratou during the Samorogouan stop, shortly after the opening ceremony. (Samorogouan is a small town in West Burkina Faso where the official ceremony of the Tour took place, and was chosen as because it has a high rate of FGM and was therefore a symbolic start of the activities to be held during the tour).  One minute after we started talking, I realised where I was getting that déjà-vu feeling from: Guewaratou is a famous face in Burkina Faso. During the Women’s March against the 2015 political coup, a journalist took a picture of her. That picture became a worldwide phenomenon thanks to social media – and it is now the symbolic image of the Burkinabe desire for change. And Guewaratou wants change more than everyone else – not only in politics, but also in the very society we live in. More importantly, Guewaratou is a fierce activist against FGM in Burkina Faso.

She’s part of the National Youth Tour Against FGM for the second time now. Because Guewaratou has a very personal experience with FGM.

“When they said they were going to cut me, I threatened to call the police."

She was aware of the harmful effects of FGM thanks to a public awareness campaign she attended some time earlier – thankfully. She knew the practice was illegal – and that there were ways to fight it. Guewaratou made it clear to anyone that wanted to have her cut: she was not going to change her mind. They had to abandon their plan. 

This is how Guewaratou managed to avoid being cut. 

Guewaratou picked her battle

Now, Guewaratou made the fight against FGM her own battle.

If you asked her which part of the society needs the most to be made aware of the harmful effects of FGM, she’d reply without hesitation: the political leaders. In her opinion, the men and women campaigning around the country must become the strongest advocates for the End of FGM.

If those stakeholders are well informed, they’ll be able to reach everyone, even within the communities that encourage cutting. They can change attitudes and traditions.

To be clear: if all the stakeholders spend as much energy fighting FGM than they do to gain votes, they’ll win much more than an election. They’ll have the feeling that they helped an entire generation of girls to change their communities and their societies.

May this plea be heard, political leaders…