Rekia looked at Ezinne’s picture and a depression formed in the corners of her lips. Today made it a year since she lost her sister to the cold hands of death. It had been a failed abortion which led to bleeding and finally Ezinne’s demise.
Ezinne had died in her arms, ‘Rekia…’ Her voice was fading. ‘He put something in my drink. I’m so sorry…I failed…’
Ever since her step sister died, her parents had threatened to circumcise her and today they had taken a major step with the announcement they made.
‘On Wednesday, you are going to the community’s midwife to get circumcised.’ Rekia’s mother said.
‘Yes, Ezinne’s actions will not be repeated.’ Her father agreed.
Rekia stared hard at the carpet, tears blurred her sight.
‘I will not make her mistakes. I promise.’ She pleaded. ‘Please don’t do this to me. I have heard how dangerous genital mutilation is. Mummy Ezinne told me.’
‘It is for your safety, you have a bright future and I won’t let anything prevent it.’ Her father replied.
Her mother patted her back, ‘it is for your own good and besides, it will help you keep your virginity.’
Rekia lay on her bed, breathing rapidly, numbed by the pain, she was oblivious when her mother entered. The sight of the blood drenched bedsheets made Rekia’s mother scream. ‘Rekia!’ she rushed to her side.
Alarmed by her daughter’s condition, she ran to the compound and started to cry for help. Obiageli scurried from her quarters. ‘What is it?’
Hassana, Rekia’s mother pointed at her quarters, ‘my daughter, she is…she is not responsive, she is bleeding badly. Help me.’
Obiageli ran to the security guards’ post and came back with two of the security personnel. Hassana wept as they carried Rekia into Obiageli’s Toyota. Obiageli motioned to her to hop in.
As they drove to the hospital, Hassana tried to soothe Rekia but her words bounced back. Rekia’s ears were clouded by confusion, she seemed in between life and death. The blood stained seats did nothing to calm Hassana.
‘Why did you do this to her?’ Obiageli asked. ‘I warned you but you told me to stay out of it. May you not know what it’s like to lose a daughter.’
Hassana sobbed harder. ‘I was trying to prevent what happened to Ezinne. Our husband convinced me, he said…’
‘You are an idiot!’ Obiageli fumed. ‘I am a victim of genital mutilation and you don’t want to know how it feels physically and mentally.’
At the hospital, hours passed and the women had not heard anything about Rekia. Hassana began to pace and Obiageli pleaded with her to sit.
Hassana’s knees almost knocked as fear erupted within her. She wished she listened to Rekia. My Rekia, I am so sorry, I will make it up to you. Your baba and I will no longer listen to the community. She thought.
Just then a figure wearing blue scrubs walked in and the two women rose. Their eyes searched the doctor for answers.
‘I need to speak to Rekia’s parents.’ The doctor said.
Hassana replied. ‘We are here. How is Rekia?’
‘I want to convey my condolences to you and your family, Rekia did not make it. Despite our interventions and continuous monitoring, Rekia experienced complications beyond our control.’
Hassana became hysterical and ran off. ‘Where is my daughter? I want to see her.’ She wailed.
Obiageli wept as she remembered her thirteen year old self. She had survived the ordeal of mutilation but Rekia didn’t. She cried harder knowing that Rekia did not have that chance to tell her story.
Three months after Rekia’s death, Obiageli urged Hassana to go for counseling. After much persuasion, she went to get closure. It was the same doctor who attended to Rekia.
After exchanging pleasantries, she sat and asked. ‘Tell me about female genital mutilation so I will warn my community.
‘First of all, I am sorry for your loss.’ He began. ‘I want to condemn female genital mutilation. Whatever the reason you practice it, it is wrong and serves no medical purpose.’
Hassana wept silently, the doctor offered her tissue.
‘Your daughter suffered from infibulation, the most severe form of female genital mutilation.’ He continued.
‘What do you mean by that?’ Hassana asked. ‘Are there types of female genital mutilation?
He nodded. ‘There are 4 types and infibulation is the worst. Her clitoris, her labia majora, inclusive of the medial part were all removed. Her vaginal orifice was stitched, leaving just a tiny opening.’
How many of our daughters have died because of this barbaric act? Rekia had the right to live but it was snatched by the singular act of genital mutilation.
Over 200 million girls/women in the world have suffered the choice being forced on Rekia. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) involves procedures that remove either partially or totally the external female genitalia for delusional reasons – anything order than medical reasons is delusional in this context.
The practice has no health benefits and causes heavy bleeding and health problems like cysts, dysuria, childbirth complications and increased risk of newborn deaths.
In 2008, the World Health Assembly passed resolution on the elimination of FGM, stressing the importance of collaboration in all sectors. Nigeria accounts for the third highest number of women and girls that have undergone FGM worldwide. In May 2015, then President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan signed a federal law banning FGM.
It’s 2024 and there are still reports of female genital mutilation going in different parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East despite the wins we’ve recorded. This goes to show that there is still so much to be done. So, on this edition of the International Day of Eradication of female genital mutilation, I join various stakeholders around the world to lend my voice to the cause. I’m saying listen to the voices of every FGM survivor trying to get out of this trauma, listen to the voices of the ones we’ve lost and let’s end this barbaric act once and for all. Kindly share this with people in your network to join the advocacy.