Sitting at the edge of the bed beside Amara’s bed, Akina touched her friend’s bare shoulder.
“You look pale and weak. Are you ill?”
“Didn’t you hear?” Ihara said, shifting uncomfortably on the bed, and trying to sit up.
“I’ve become a full woman now,” she said.
Akuna frowned in disgust.
“You’ve been circuit.. “
“Shhhh… don’t say it out loud,” Imara chided, squeezing Akina’s free hand gently.
“I thought we agreed that we won’t go through with it. Teacher said it’s not right.”
“I know, AK, I know. I couldn’t say no. They overpowered me,” she whispered.
Akina nodded wistfully, understanding.
Their tradition was law and you had to go through with it no matter how you felt.
“Does it hurt?” Akina asked, stroking her cheek tenderly.
“A lot,” Imara replied, “I wish I could remove the lower part of my body and throw it away.”
“Don’t say that,” Akina said, suppressing a sad smile.
“Bite your lips together when they come for you,” Imara said, “It’ll make the pain hurt less.”
Akina thanked her gratefully.
“Happy Birthday, my precious Imara,” mother said, smiling proudly at Imara, “Today, you become an adult by the outside world standards. But we know that you really became a woman three years ago.”
Imara smiled but it did not reach her eyes. The lace dress she wore was taut and her head gear was heavy. But she looked stunning and radiant. The local hairdresser and makeup artist had done well.
Mother had prepared a lavish ceremony and was adorning her in jewelry and praising her.
“Guess what else we’re celebrating?”
“I don’t have to guess since I already know,” Imara replied.
“Jabali is such a fine choice. He will look after you and give you many sons and daughters.”
“Mum…” Imara protested.
Mother sighed and placed both hands on Imara’s shoulders.
Looking into her eyes, she said, “I know you’re upset because your best friend is not here to share in your joy. But she’s in a better place, watching over you. Would she have liked you to sulk on your best day? Take comfort in the fact that although we cannot see her, her spirit is with us forever.”
Imara stifled a tear.
“Hush dear,” Mother said, “Don’t cry. Such is life. But we make the most of every day.”
Imara turned away and stared into space.
“I don’t want to marry him,” she whispered, “AK would not have supported our union.”
“Don’t say that,” mother said, “True, she was strange. But she would have understood.”
“Let me leave you to collect your thoughts,” Mother said.
Imara shifted uneasily in her seat as she faced the doctor.
How could she bring herself to explain what she was going through?
Jabali had threatened to return her to her father’s house if nothing changed – for her, that was a fate worse than death. So, she had to come to the local hospital. Still, she couldn’t find the words.
“Feel free,” Dr. Binti said. “I’m a woman too, you know.”
“The man and woman relations is very difficult for me and my husband.”
“Did you undergo the rite of passage?”
“Yes,” Imari whispered, “That is why, isn’t it?”
Dr. Binti held her hands and looked into her eyes tenderly.
“We will find a solution – Don’t worry,” she replied.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia for cultural reasons. It is rooted in a culture that aims to control feminine sexuality because many cultures that still practice FGM do it to prevent women from being promiscuous. It is carried out by traditional practitioners on young girls. It has no benefits rather it leads to several short-term complications such as severe pain, bleeding, weakness, problem urinating, difficulty in menstruation and long-term complications like cysts, complications in childbirth, infections and increased risk of neonatal deaths.
In addition, FGM affects girls mentally, causes them to shrink and feel less of themselves especially when they move to bigger cities where they see their counterparts who aren’t mutilated. Their esteem is also shattered when they realize that they can’t enjoy intimate experiences with their partners.
For these reasons, FGM is a violation girl’s rights by the United Nations, the WHO and other well-meaning organizations. This is why today has been set aside as International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation to raise more awareness and discourage this barbaric practice.
Thankfully, the number of FGM victims are reducing by the day but we still need more people to lend their voices to the advocacy to end this – until no girl suffers this gross evil and violation of her rights.