Narratives

I’s Story

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.

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Y’s Story

March 17, 2017

I’m 18 years old and from the north-east part of Nigeria. FGM is not prevalent there and only a small percentage of people practice it. It’s more prevalent in the Osun state in the south.

I came to the UK when I was 15 to study for my GCSEs and now I’m doing A-levels in Oxford. I want to be a gynaecologist.

I was surprised to learn about FGM and surprised how my family and friends seem to know very little about it. I first heard about FGM a few years ago when they were trying to get it banned in Nigeria and it was all over social media in the UK.

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G’s Story

September 7, 2016

In early days during white man’s rule in Kenya, Christianity had taken root in the country where there were changes in families’ lives as opposed to the former way of life passed on from their ancestors. One of the changes was the circumcision of girls which had been the normal way of life for most tribes.

In some families though, who have embraced Christianity, leaving out the circumcision was not easy due to the stigma associated. The families that didn’t have their girls circumcised were stigmatised, isolated, looked down upon and even had abuses hurled at them, on the way. So some of those Christians preferred to have it done secretly even sending their girls away to relatives who could do it secretly for them. Born to a family that was not Christian, though Christianity had some effect on the family, me and my sisters were expected to undergo the ritual as it was a way of fitting in the society and fulfilling the ancestral command or directive.

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H’s Story

I am a grandmother. I was born in Kenya and came to the UK in 2001.

FGM was talked about when I was in school – it was like a peer pressure. It was being done openly and we knew who had done it that particular school holiday. If you looked older and had not done it, you became a social reject and there was back-biting. There is a name “kirigu” which means “uncircumcised girl” and is a big insult. So you want to do it so you no longer have that name. The boys at our school thought you were a grown-up girl once you were circumcised.

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D’s Story

September 1, 2016

I’m 21 years old and was born in Somaliland. My mother and father are from Somaliland.

When I was 7 or 8 years old, my Mum asked me if I wanted FGM. She asked me three times. I said I was not sure and she gave me two months to think about it.

All my friends had FGM. We all wore the same shoes and the same clothes. I didn’t want to be different from the others. So I told my Mum I would give it a try and I had FGM when I was 9 years old.

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E’s Story

June 27, 2016

I am a Sudanese man. I think men need to be honest with women about FGM. Men and their wives need to decide together to stop FGM and this comes from awareness and raising children according to values and morals. I would remind other men that the Prophet said that if you want your daughter to be safe, you must be safe towards other women. Otherwise it will come back to you.

I was born in Sudan and I have lived in the Netherlands. FGM has affected my two sisters, my mother, my aunt and my grandmother. They call it “sunnah”. My mother was very worried but also happy that her daughter was grown and going to be cut – this gave her value in the community but my mother remembered her own FGM so was worried also.

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Survivors Kaddy and Fatou speaking up

June 16, 2016

Click here for video. (This film is from ‘Let’s Talk FGM’ a ground-breaking app developed and piloted by a health visitor from Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust to support health professionals discuss female genital mutilation (FGM) in Oxford. Let’s Talk FGM is the result of a Mary Seacole Award.)

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M’s story

November 17, 2015

They did my circumcision when I was 3 months old.

In Gambia there are lots of different tribes and they take the girls for circumcision at different ages. In our tribe you have to do it by 3 months. That time I didn’t experience anything as I was very young. My grandmum arranged my circumcision.

I got married in Gambia when I was 18 years old. My husband is Gambian.

When I got married, I couldn’t have sex because there would have been nowhere to go and they had to increase my womanhood.

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N’s story

I am from Gambia and from the Mandinka tribe. I am married to a Gambian man from the same tribe. We got married in Gambia and we had our first child there.

When I was 10 years old, my grandmum took 6 of us, me and my cousins, to circumcise us. It was a really bad day. It was really painful. It still disturbs us in terms of giving birth. It’s really difficult.

We were taken to a neighbour’s compound for circumcision. They lie you on the floor. They took a new razor blade. Someone will hold your legs and hands and you can’t do anything. They put the blade in your vagina and cut it. I was screaming. They will put their hands in your mouth so people won’t hear you crying. And I was bleeding.

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W’s Story

September 7, 2015

I have 4 sisters and 3 brothers and my family are from Khartoum in Sudan. I came to the UK 4 years ago. In Sudan they do FGM from age 4-7. I think things are changing in the capital.

My father was very educated. My grandfather wanted to make FGM for me – he thought it would protect me from sexual issues. All my friends had FGM and had a nice party.

When I was around 7 years old, I told my father I wanted FGM because I wanted a party and thought I would get money from my relatives. My father said to my Mum “never do that to W and her sisters”. Unfortunately my elder 2 sisters have had FGM because my father was out of Sudan at that time and my grandfather arranged it.

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R’s Story

August 22, 2015

I am from Gambia. Both my parents are from the Fula tribe.

My Grandmum decided I should have circumcision. I was 7 years old. After a month when you are healed they make a ceremony.

Circumcision is a traditional belief but it causes a lot of harm. It’s a problem when you’re giving birth. It causes a lot of problems.

I would not like my daughter to experience the same thing in life. It is too painful. It causes a lot of harm.

In our tradition if you are not cut it’s a shame for you and they call you all sorts of names. You feel disgrace.

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L’s Story

August 14, 2015

I am from Gambia. Both my parents and my husband are from the Fulani tribe.

I can’t remember exactly what age I was when the procedure was done to me. I was 5 or 6.

I remember my Mum taking me back to her village with her sister – we lived in the city. They took me to her mother’s (my grandmother’s) house.

Then my grandmother and aunties took me to the place in the village where it was done. My mother didn’t attend. They took me to a very old lady. I was not aware where we were going. When we got there they took me to a room like a bathroom behind her house.

They took off my clothes and lay me down. They covered my eyes. I remember screaming “what are you doing? What are you doing?” and before I realised it was already done.

After that I was taken back to my grandmother’s house until I was better. I stayed in her house with my Mum for about a month.

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T’s Story

August 4, 2015

I grew up in the Gambia and I didn’t know I had been through circumcision. I was between 3 and 6 months old. By the time I was 7 or 8, I told my Mum I wanted to go through it as all the kids were having it and they got gifts and parties. Then my Mum told me that I’d had it already.

Men are not involved in circumcision and most of the time it’s not the mothers but aunties. My Dad’s sister organised my circumcision. In Gambia you have like a “big sister” who takes responsibility for your circumcision and you go to for advice. She will take pride in arranging the circumcision. It’s like boosting the family – they want to show that they care so much for the child they want to show the whole world.

They don’t announce the circumcision. Relatives steal girls and circumcise them. They teach morals during the circumcision period – how to be a woman, about pregnancy, how to treat elders, not to look elders in the eye and how to be a good wife.

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B’s Story

April 17, 2015

I am from Gambia, from the Serahule or Soninki tribe. I was in America when I went for a holiday with my Mum. My Mum left me with my Nan. My Nan decided to kind of steal me and take me to the circumcise place. I was circumcised by an old lady. I was 7.

It was very, very painful. You can’t wee, it hurts so much. I had no painkillers and had to struggle through until I got better. My Mum and I didn’t go back to America as my parents were worried about getting into trouble. My Dad was in America and I stayed with my Mum in Gambia until I got married.

Now they do circumcision when girls are babies because they don’t know how to scratch themselves. They do it at 3 days now.My two sisters were circumcised at 3-4 days’ old. My Mum didn’t want us cut and she argued for my sisters but they stole the babies from her. They don’t listen.
It’s like there is a “human police”. People steal children and cut them.

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S’s Story

April 1, 2015

I was born in the Gambia and I think I had my FGM when I was about 5 or 6. I came to the UK in 2006.

Before I got married I would argue for FGM because it is what I know. I grew up with not having anything down there.

When I got married it took me a week to do anything with my husband as I was blocked, type 3.

My grandmother said I had to go to the doctors. I was confused. My husband called my Mum and she too said I would have to go to the doctors.

The GPs had no clue and couldn’t see anything. They didn’t know what to unblock and how to reverse my FGM. I was advised to buy a lubricant, it took a few more days and sex was so, so painful.

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P’s story

P is originally from the Sudan. She moved to the UK in December 1990. She was cut herself. This narrative is a record of her thoughts on the practice of FGM.

Cutting is a nasty experience, you never get over it.

Extended family and the people we know are educated now, and know the harms.

My daughter was 6 years old in 1968, it was clear then that educated people did not want their children cut. Our family stopped cutting at this time.

All round the city you can find people cut in three different ways, sometimes they take it all away and sometimes they use stitches. But it causes harm

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K’s Story

March 3, 2015

I was born in Gunjur in the Gambia. I was cut when I was less than a year old. I was brought up by my auntie.

I went to High School and at this time I started working as a volunteer for Amnesty International. For 10 years I helped with campaigns and workshops about violence against women and FGM. I got lots of insults about me and my parents while I was doing this work.

I am married to a Gambian man from the town where I was brought up and we have children together. We came to the UK about 10 years ago.

In the Gambia, FGM is seen as a matter of “must”. Girls that do not have FGM will be mocked with people telling them that they are “isolema”, meaning “uncastrated” or “uncut” which is seen as an insult. I

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