Khadia Diallo’s testimony on intergenerational dialogue
We had the opportunity to talk to Khadidiatou Diallo, founder of the Belgian association against female genital mutilation, GAMS Belgium, about intergenerational aspects of FGM.
Khadia left Senegal in the 1980s. It took her a long time to be able to talk about the subject of excision with her family back home.
How were you able to address the issue of FGM with your older family members?
“In 1995, I decided to talk about FGM with my parents because I returned to Senegal with my youngest daughter, born in Belgium. She was only 6 months old and could not yet walk. I arrived at night, and the next morning I called my whole family together. I had started to work on excision in Belgium as part of my language courses, and I was in the process of launching an association to fight against the practice [GAMS Belgium]. I said to myself, ‘This is the moment, you’ll see if you have the courage to talk about this with your parents. Because if I couldn’t talk about it with my family, how could I create an association and talk about it in public? I had to start with my family.”
Khadia had already had three daughters while still living in Senegal. Two of them were cut without her consent. She had managed to protect the third, but no one knew that she had not been cut. Before that famous day in 1995, she had never discussed the subject openly with her parents.
The meeting was not easy. “I had to be very clear with my family that I would not allow my daughter to be cut and that I even wanted it to stop for all the other girls in my family. I was called ‘crazy’ and ‘European’, but for me that moment was decisive, it confirmed that I would continue my fight. I am proud that as a result, several girls in my family have been protected.”
Another step in her journey was to talk to her grandfather, a person Khadia particularly respected and who had knowledge of Islam because he translated the Quran into Fulani.
“The question that concerned me was whether or not female circumcision was a religious obligation. I said to myself that culture and tradition can be abandoned, but religion is more difficult. For this I turned to my grandfather. I said to him ‘I have a delicate question to ask you, delicate for me and for you, because it touches the intimacy of women’. My grandfather confirmed that excision is not a religious obligation and wished me well with my struggle.”
How can an intergenerational dialogue for the abandonment of FGM be put in place?
“In order for there to be an intergenerational dialogue, we need to find points in common and especially take the time. Young people today do not always take the time to discuss with older people, they are preoccupied with their phones, social media. They may think that older people can’t give them anything. In Fulani we say, ‘the one who is older than you has more locs’ [old clothes], that means, he has more knowledge. Even when they don’t agree on everything, young people and elders can find common interests. For the young people, it is a question of taking the time to learn from their elders, but also of explaining to them that society is evolving, that today women can have a job outside the home, that they can choose when they want to have children …. And that excision must be abandoned. ”