Wanting your daughter « to belong », despite FGM being illegal

Maryam Sheikh (Somalia/Kenya) : raised the dilemma that parents face when wanting to save daughters from the cut while still wating them to « belong ». Moreover, girls themselves may ask to undergo FGM in order to be like the other girls in their community.

Maryam Sheikh testified of her personal experience:
« I saw it with my own sister, who was so afraid and so concerned once I convinced her to not cut her daughters. She was afraid of her daughters not being displined (morally upright). She was afraid of the name calling and the riducule. She was also concerned that boys maybe so curious about her daughters and thus be ‘attracted ‘ and end up ‘spoiling’ them. Her fears were valid. But not a justification to continue the practice. Took me hours and hours of talking to her, of going over and over on the same thing. It called out for patience! »

« one of the daughters was so adamant to want to get cut. At 10 years she was not cut and everyone in her class was. She wanted to belong. She could not talk about her experience (of FGM yes) to her peers; she did not even have anything to show (girls in the community would often tell each other ‘show me I show you’) etc. At some point, my sister told her she will take her to Nairobi and she can come back and tell her friends she was cut. Nairobi is where I live, can you imagine the double standards that would have put me in? I traveled home. I talked to her but she was crying, saying she will go to her paternal aunties and get cut. It was a difficult moment. I remember holding her face and asking her to look into my eyes. I asked her if she trusted me, she said yes. I told her to just let this go, trust me on it because I know one day she will thank me. That was all the answer I had. Her mum was not very convinced. But I made it upon myself to call them every other day, talk with my niece and reassure her of the decision.  Today, she is in secondary form three and she thanks me for saving her from the pain and suffering. But confesses that she cringes when uncut girls are bad mouthed by her peers. She says they don’t know she is not cut. »

« Do we know the fears, concerns and worries of girls who have been saved from FGM?
How do we make sure girls who have been saved from FGM talk to each other and to others?
How are we linking girls so they know they are not alone? »

Maryam Sheikh

According to Maryam, the strong social norm, « wanting to belong » is one of the reason why « the law alone is not effective ».

NEXT: Prohibition of derogative language

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