By Hellen Siah Sayan.
Every civilization must learn to solve the problems that undermine its progress or faces the consequences of extinction. Equally, every generation must set as its task to identify historical wrongs that are a break on transformation. This is why I have embarked on a crusade to correct the injustice. Further, It is based upon these points; also, I am working with other change agents to dispense with a common problem, which prevents some of our women, and girls- by far the most marginalized and exploited gender- from becoming whom they set out to be.
We do a grave disservice to society and ourselves if we gloss over problems that undermine human dignity but float the idea that by not mentioning them, they would magically fizzle away. Until we can stem out serial, harmful practices, our desire for an advanced future will be an illusion. How else can we squash the social inequality between male and female; how else can we achieve affirmative action; how else can we remain on message so as to ensure women and girls are on an irreversible path to social actualization when our girls are exposed to certain harmful cultural practices that distract attention from the age-old marginalization to the likening of those who only claim to fame is to keep women in the back seat.
Meanwhile, it must be said culture practices can be both a source of transformation, which can electrify the people, explain their way of life, their symbols, local colors, and can also be a reserve of backwardness that promotes tendencies that undermine the progress of the people. That is why, as we go along, we must review or cultural practices, debate specific versions, get rid of the ones that are not good, and promote and steel in the society the ones that are dynamic.
Neurobiological consequences of FGM
Guess What? They do not tell you the neurobiological implications of FGM! No, they do not tell you how it affects the brain and spinal cord. We learn that cutting our clitoris will give enough sensory pleasure to our husbands or partners during sexual intercourse. But these are big, big lies backed by nothing other than fallacy meant to hide the danger of the practice. As they say, the best way to keep people in obscurity and dominate them is to conceal things from them. Besides, the surest way to make people elbow themselves from a specific spell is to enlighten them.
They shell us with the myth that those who undergo FGM have minimal sexual desires; they quickly have self-confidence and maintain fidelity. But they do not tell us how that butchery leads to post-traumatic disorder and rob those women of the same pleasure as their male counterparts during sexual intercourse. They do not tell us about the humiliation involved- if you like- the alienation of the woman to an object. In fact, what is even terrible is that an underage girl who undergoes FGM doesn’t also get to remember how it is done. But she lives the rest of her life with the deformity of her sexual organ.
What do the statistics say about FGM?
Approximately 40 percent of women with mutilation problems suffer from depression and post-traumatic disorder. The risk of mental depression is rife among persons who have undergone the initiation. They don’t mention that women or girls who suffer the knife of FGM stand the high risk of coming down with complications during childbirth, the underserved risk of contracting HIV/Aids, chronic pains, urinary problems, painful menstruation, excessive bleeding, and so on! They hide the truth of abnormal brain development, excessive weight, tissues, and muscle contractions- are just some of the few medical consequences that are occasioned by FGM.
Sadly, some of our elders tell us FGM is the best thing that can happen to a woman. They also say it is a traditional school/practice for moral benefits. Hence we are to remain silent in the face of all these alarming medical warnings about the danger of FGM simply because we must satisfy a traditional practice that would come back to haunt those who have undergone it, posing a severe threat to social progress.
It is expected that countries that face resource inadequacies would accurately ration their meager funds to plausible social programs that address the scourge of poverty, ensure advanced living standards for their peoples, and deal with complicated health problems. However, if due to certain practices, which can be avoided, countries have to divert precious financial and human resources from structural issues to ones that can easily be averted, takes away hugely from the overall development agenda.
Imagine as we rebuke corruption, calling for cuts in the excessive salaries and benefits of government officials in the highest income bracket. If we can also apply a similar strategy to the elimination of FGM so that funds that are used to treat people who suffer from the consequences of FGM can be redistributed to other critical health areas in the budget. For instance, the purchasing of CT scans dialysis machines, as well as making other crucial interventions that would reduce fatality and put the healthcare sector on a resilient path. Probably, that way, we can achieve a lot more than what we can do for health.
Research on FGM
Research says that after examining hair samples of affected women, high levels of stress hormones were found in women who experienced severe forms of FGM and women who underwent partial or complete removal of the clitoris after their 9th birthday from a practice that partially/ totally removes clitoris, vulva by non-doctors who use scissors, knives, razor blades, and other sharp and unhygienic instruments.
- That our young girls are allowed to go to the Sandi school, not during the period schools are in session; That is, if FGM must stay be a component of the Sandi School, it must be done by trained medical practitioners to persons who have reached the age of consent and who also agree to undergo the practice;
- Those, in the Sandi School, our girls are also taught civic education and fundamental rights to learn about their rights and responsibilities as citizens. In a tremendous sense, if you like this write-up is not a blueprint for how we can solve the FGM scourge, but it is intended to stimulate a tidal wave of resistance, to induce a discussion, and to put out fresh ideas about the danger of FGM. It is an attempt at reflection by a passionate and bold person to speak about an injustice that too many people are too afraid to talk about. It is taking damaging our young women and girls who have visited the Sandi Society, undermining the future we want them to have. It is no way meant to demean our culture, nor is it an attempt to cast aspersions on it. In any way, this piece nourished our thoughts and was written with the desire to reimagine our society, and we can make it better for women and girls. More importantly, it is a battle cry for action and a weapon to enlighten us to join in one accord, with passion and commitment, desire, and resistance, to end the nightmare.
In many ways, I attempt to tell the story of the many voiceless victims by explaining their pains as a solidarity drive, by recounting their trauma in the hope that it would invoke national disapproval that will lead to the end of such cruel practice. In truth, it is a canvass to save the future of a girl child, to prevent the worst from happening. As I conclude this, we must all ask ourselves: How many more girls or women will we lose to FGM? Just how many more women must live with the traumas, the medical complications? If we believe enough is enough, we must end the practice of FGM!
Hence, the following lines capture the mood and appeal for help:
I am indefensible!
I am vulnerable!
I am a woman.
But I have been thingified!
I cry blood when I am hurt, but my cry is dismissed as something ordinary!
FGM is a dead weight on me, and the pain has arrested my every action!
I cry out for rescue, for relief, for help, and the end to this virus!
I am broken; I am burning; I am in inflame; I am weeping; I am riddled in the inferno!
But those who support Female Genital Mutilation condemn mean to this fate: BURN, BURN, BURN BURN, BURN, and BURN!
But I say Join your voice to mine so we can shout: no to FGM- never again!
Hellen Siah Sayan.
Activist, Liberian Diplomat.