August 9, 2017
I was born in Khartoum in Sudan. I was cut when I was about 7 or 8 years old.
My Mum passed away before I was 7. I was looked after by my grandmother and Dad. My grandmother was kind. For her to fulfil her role, it was very important for me and my sister to have FGM. She thought “their Mum is gone now and there’s no one to look after them”. So she did some negotiations with my Dad and his family – my other grandmother and aunties from my father’s side.
I was a child and I was scared. I loved the preparations. You have to wear a special new dress. There were lots of preparations – gold, new slippers, new shoes, new sleeping wear. I was scared and excited. I remember being excited about putting on henna.
We went to the house of a special lady, 15-20 minutes away by car. We went to that lady in 2 cars with our aunties and other ladies. I was in one car and my sister was in the other. My sister is 2 years older.
I remember there was one bed in the room made of rope and there was a pot for the parts.
I remember my auntie telling the lady that the cut should not be too severe. They didn’t want the bad type of FGM for us. Our FGM was not the bad type – in the middle. Before they started the operation we were asked to go to the toilet.
They started with me. Two ladies each held my legs and arms and a third lady was behind me to support me. She started with an injection. I felt just the moment she put the injection and then I felt nothing. Then they started with my older sister and she never stopped crying.
Afterwards we went to the sea to wash our faces- this is a tradition. Then we went home. There were lots of people from both sides of the family and neighbours. We had lots of food. We lay down on special sheets. These are traditional customs.
After the anaesthetic had gone, we felt the pain! Me and my sister were crying – my sister was worse than me. The lady gave us tablets to sleep and my Dad got medicine. When Dad saw us crying he didn’t like it. I think he had to agree to our FGM due to pressure from the family.
I suffered a lot when I wanted to wee. They poured warm water when I was wee-ing. I was scared to wee! I used to walk around the yard crying and wee-ing – any way was painful. My sister couldn’t wee and was sleeping all the time.
I love my family and love my grandmother and don’t think this was their fault, but FGM is a crime. There’s a lot of pain with periods. The hole is very small and it’s not enough for the blood to go out.
My three older sisters were cut by a different lady and said it was worse. The lady that cut me in Khartoum was considered a “professional” and had a licence as a midwife.
When I was 13 or 14 years old, I heard lectures at school about FGM. They told us about the side-effects and asked the girls to talk to the women in the family, mothers and grandmothers, about FGM. I recall being told that FGM stops periods coming out properly. There are a lot of women with fibroids in Sudan. They said that we would suffer when we got married and had babies.
After the lectures, I spoke to the ladies from the family and neighbours about FGM at occasions. People think that girls should be circumcised to be clean. Some think it is good otherwise girls will be obsessed about sex. Some mix it with religion and tradition, thinking it is “sunnah”. My grandmother didn’t give me an explanation. Recently, a friend from Sudan told me that they are still doing FGM in small villages and cities in Sudan and women are still angry about the lecturer who came to our school to talk about it. Now people won’t accept anyone to come and talk about it to stop it.
In my generation, only girls with fathers who were doctors or well educated were not cut. Even the well-educated did FGM.
When I got married sex was not easy, it took lots of time and there was lots of pain. Sexually I don’t feel what normal ladies feel. I tried to convince myself it was only in my mind.
When I was pregnant, my doctor asked me to get rid of my circumcision but I asked her to postpone this until delivery time. Then I had a caesarean anyway. I had a baby girl.
I don’t want my daughter to go through the same experience. My husband was against FGM also. FGM has ended in our family now. None of my older sisters in Sudan have done FGM to their daughters. There is no pressure to do FGM anymore as my grandmothers have passed away. When someone so powerful, like a grandmother, is still alive there is pressure.
A lot of ladies have FGM again after they have had babies. The ladies do it again because of shame. It doesn’t look ok and they do it for their husbands to enjoy sex. They think it’s not ok to leave the wound as it is. Men know about this – some husbands criticise their wives if they don’t do it. Some men are caring and kind about their daughters but not their wives.
Women don’t talk about the second operation but I know some of them think that it is important. They think they can sacrifice themselves for their husbands. Girls can still cheat with FGM. I know a lady who did FGM to cover up the fact that she had had lots of relationships before her marriage.
We need more awareness about the second operation – for men also!