You will remember I went to Kenya earlier this year. Well, I received a letter from Leslie at Action Aid, who also just came back from Kenya. I’ve met Leslie on several occasions, we attended the End Sexual Violence in Conflict Conference together, my kids have got involved in learning about ActionAid’s remarkable work all over the world, we sponsor a child through them and I am always inspired by their work, so rather than change anything, I just wanted to share Leslie’s words with you directly.
There are emotive pictures in this post, of equipment relating to FGM – Female Genital Mutilation
I recently went to a remote part of Kenya where I met Pauline, 15, who told me her utterly compelling and yet terrifying story about her experience of FGM and then forced marriage, Pauline was so keen to speak to me as she’s really passionate about spreading the word. She was only ten when she got the cut and she didn’t know what it was going to entail or indeed what it lead to. She never wants it to happen her daughter or indeed any girl she knows. She almost died in childbirth due to complications resulting from it.
But, why am I talking about this now? Well, it’s what’s called the ‘the cutting season’. This is the time when girls and young women here in the UK are sent to countries they have often never been to in order to have this procedure that’s frankly horrifying and just wrong. FGM is the partial or full cutting of a girl’s clitoris and labia, for non-medical reasons, usually on minors as young as four and no older than twelve years old. The procedure can cause severe bleeding, infection, infertility and even death.
This is happening to girls who live in the same cities as you. They could be your children’s classmates, and there are incredible organisations like Forward and FGM Aware amongst many others who campaign about this issue in the UK, but it also goes on in many countries that ActionAid works in around the world too. Which is why ActionAid, as an international charity, is putting the spotlight on this again. Because it must end – now.
In 2014 ActionAid has supported 483 community-led projects to protect women and girls from harmful traditional practices as FGM. We’ve also mobilised 151,000 women to challenge violence and harmful traditional practices. What does this mean? ActionAid enables women and girls to stand up for their rights by teaching about this in schools, creating women’s groups where women share their experiences and watch out for each other and they learn coping mechanisms to so that they can progress with their lives as independent women.
Please help us to spread the word again to help girls like Pauline to never go through this.
All the very best,
Here’s Pauline’s story:
Pauline, 15 has a daughter who is just over a year old, Faith. Pauline is currently pregnant. She had the cut at 10 as her parents were alcoholics so couldn’t afford for her to be in school. She didn’t know what having the cut would lead to – she says:
“I didn’t even know which part of the body was going to be cut. I didn’t know that the cut meant that I would then be forced to be married. I only realised that when I was in the group of girls who I underwent the cut with.”
Pauline was woken at 4am and taken away. She was told not to cry. She was sat on a stone facing east and then the first girl was cut and then the next and then the next one after another.
After they were cut they had their legs tied with lace both beneath the knees and upwards to their thighs. They stayed there for three months. In this room, first suffering from shock was when Pauline discovered what the cut actually meant – that she was now ready for marriage.
Pauline’s husband is much older than her and she’s his second wife. He’s often absent which means she has to be incredibly independent and fend for herself by finding food for herself.
How does ActionAid help?
Pauline is now a member of a women’s group who educate both young girls and women about the dangers and repercussions of issues such as FGM. As far as she’s concerned no daughter of hers or any other daughters she may have will ever go through the cut.
Pauline barely makes ends meet by selling charcoal at the local market when she can find it and dreams of a better life where she will run her own business.
How can you help?
Please help to spread the word about this appeal, ActionAid need money to help to provide safe houses and education for girls to inform them before they are cut. Share this post, follow ActionAid on Twitter and facebook and help spread the word.
Please read and share from the ActionAid End FGM page. If you can, please consider donating.