Uniting to end FGM in Mali: 3 stories of minds changed
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a form of gender-based violence that poses a huge problem across the developing world. According to the World Health Organization, more than 125 million girls and women alive today have undergone FGM – likely between infancy and age 15.
FGM has no health benefits and can lead to serious – and potentially fatal – health complications such as severe bleeding, infections, infertility, and increased childbirth risks, including newborn death.
Though concentrated across 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East, this traditional, cultural procedure must be globally recognized as an intolerable violation of human rights.
Standing together to protect girls
In Mali, there are no official laws making FGM illegal, and there is little awareness of the associated health risks. Over 80% of females undergo FGM in the country each year.
To combat this practice, Plan and partner organizations are going to the country’s remote villages to:
- Share information about FGM
- Facilitate discussion groups on child rights and violence against girls
- Organize educational film screenings
- Arrange counseling sessions for those affected by FGM.
One community in Mali has already proven that Plan’s activities are working. Men, women and children have banded together to speak out against FGM, and are committed to banning the practice. As a testament to this, the community held a FGM abandonment ceremony and celebration. People of all ages gathered to share powerful stories involving FGM. Here are just a few:
Kady used to be one of her community’s main FGM cutters.
“I never planned for this to be my job,” she explains. “My mother-in-law was a cutter, and she trained me to become one too. I didn’t realize how harmful it was. If a girl fainted, lost a lot of blood, or even died after she was cut, I was told it was the work of devils or ghosts.”
Three years ago, Kady was invited to her first training session organized by Plan. She no longer works as a cutter, and now participates in FGM awareness events.
“I’ve learned the harmful effects, and now I’ve broken the tradition of my family and stopped practicing. Even my own granddaughter has not been, and will not be, cut,” she insists. “I’ve also helped other people to understand the risks as well.”
Adama’s wife had been exposed to FGM as a youth, resulting in later complications during childbirth. Thankfully she and all the children survived, though their three daughters were later submitted to FGM, as well.
“It wasn’t seen as a bad thing,” said Adama, explaining that few knew “about the problems it causes.”
Now, after participating in group discussions in his community, Adama wants to protect future generations, and he knows awareness is the key.
“More men are talking about FGM with their wives and daughters, and this is the way it should always be,” he says. “Now we don’t want to do this (FGM) because we don’t want to hurt people.”
“I didn’t think I could stop it from happening to my own daughters,” shared Kadida. “It was tradition, so when the time came, my baby was taken from me to be cut."
Sadly, Kadida’s daughter bled to death, shortly after the procedure. She was only a year old. “I swore I’d never let another daughter of mine go through it again.” And now, she’s keeping that promise.
“I’m happy to know that now it’s not just my daughters who are safe from the same fate – all girls here are safe from FGM. But women couldn’t stop it by themselves,” she said. “We needed the whole community to understand and support the change.”
A new tradition of hope
“Today my village leader has signed an agreement to end FGM in the community – thanks to Plan’s work here,” said Mary, a 13 year-old girl who experiences daily pain, along with ongoing infections and health problems since being cut at age 7.
“It means the problems I have will be avoided for other girls,” says Mary at the celebration. “I have two younger sisters and I am so happy they will not be cut. FGM will be an old story here now.”
Malian youth gather at the FGM abandonment ceremony in support of protecting their rights, as well as those of future generations.
Bringing the movement worldwide
Though the future is certainly brighter for the girls of this community, FGM remains a big problem across Mali and the developing world. But, like these brave and determined individuals, you too can take a stand to protect the rights of girls.
When you support Plan’s Because I am a Girl project, you help to end gender inequality, promote girls’ rights and lift millions of girls out of poverty – creating brighter futures worldwide.