Sharon’s story (Cont’d):
“The next day, my mother woke me up at 6am to get ready and a few minutes later we left the house. While we were on our way, suddenly my mother stopped in front of me and just stood there. As I was asking her why she’s not moving, I was surrounded by a group of masked men who seized me and started carrying me away. I screamed for my mother to help me but she didn’t do anything. I fought them so hard and was screaming for help but no one came to help me, instead more people came to just watch me. The masked men took me away to a different part of the village that I have never been to. It was far off into the mountains. We came to stop at the Ngariba’s* place where there were more people, including elders.
The elders started feeding me some things that I didn’t know but I refused and fought them off. The Ngariba arranged a number of things in front of me, including some powders and I kicked them away. I really tried hard to fight them and I kept screaming because I didn’t want to be mutilated. The Ngariba was so angry that she broke off a stick and started to hit me with it. I fought back and took the stick and started to hit her back. It was quite a commotion. So the elders told the men to hold me back, which they did. The Ngariba finally managed to cut me. I fainted from the pain.
When I came back around, I found myself on a motorcycle heading home. I looked around and I saw my mother celebrating and so happy. I was really hurt by that. When we got home, my father came and he was also very happy. More people came to celebrate and there was nothing I could do. They had already cut me.
Apparently the police had heard that there was a family that had performed FGM and they asked around the neighborhood but no one told them anything, and so they left. After the celebrations my brothers and my father ran away with all the cows, when they found out that the police were searching for them. It was decided that my mother would take me to another relative in a place I didn’t know and she would leave me there and go somewhere else too.
The search continued until the police found me at the relative’s place. I made a statement but there was little they could do since my parents were nowhere to be found. They took me to the hospital and I stayed at the Centre in the meantime. About two months later my parents came back when they heard that the police search had died down.
I went back home after that to continue with school. My family mistreated me a lot. They told me that I was not their blood. I was not their daughter but just a slave in the house. I asked them, “If you are not my parents, where are my parents?” They never responded to that. Sometimes they would refuse to feed me and beat me up. I went through a very difficult period. But I couldn’t leave because I knew I was too young to take care of myself. I just prayed to God to help me so that I could finish my education well. After I finished my standard seven exams God answered my prayers because Sr Stella heard about my plight and she sent Kaka Valerian to come and get me. Since then I have lived here at the Centre where they take care of me and take me to school. I have never heard from my family since then and none of them has ever come to see me here, after that.”
Elizabeth (18) volunteers at Masanga Centre in Mara Region. She is a dedicated young woman in raising awareness of the effects of FGM, and here she shares what drives that dedication:
“I came to the Centre [Masanga Centre] in 2012 when I was 12 years old, after my father passed away.
My father was a learned man and he was also aware of the negative effects of FGM. He used to come to the Centre when it was first launched in 2008. He made sure that all her daughters did not undergo FGM.
When he passed away in 2012, I came to the centre and participated in the ATFGM [Association for the Termination of Female Genital Mutilation] camps where we learnt different life skills. I kept coming back to the camps every end of the year holidays where I would learn more about fighting gender based violence.
The end of 2014, the FGM season began and I decided to come straight to the Centre from school, for the holidays. My elder sister was not so lucky. When they closed school for the holidays, she went straight home. All the while our clan members had prepared for everything, and the next day after she arrived they invaded our house and they took my sister to the cutting grounds. My mother couldn’t find my sister for the whole day and when she finally found her, they had already cut her. We had never experienced that before. I know that they did it because my father was not alive to stop them, and my mother did not have the power to protect us. They even did the same to my young sister and now I’m the only one left who has escaped from the plight.
I resolved to stay at the Centre until January 2015 when I went back home after the season had ended. I had finished my standard seven studies and I had passed my exams. However, I couldn’t continue with my studies because my mother could not afford it. The Centre supported my secondary school studies until I finished Form Four at a school in Songea Region. I have become more knowledgeable on human rights and gender based violence. I have dedicated myself to advocate for the rights of women and girls, and to support the fight against gender based violence, just as I was supported. I wouldn’t have been here without their support. Maybe I would have been mutilated or married off, or my life would have gone down the wrong path.”
Why does female genital mutilation still take place, despite all the pain it causes? In the next episodes, we will learn of the myths and the facts, as to why the practice is still existent and prevalent in some cultures, more than others.
*Ngariba: refers to a female/male cutter in an FGM or in male circumcision as traditional initiation.