N’s story

November 17, 2015

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.

Most people will be outside dancing. They will beat drums so people can’t hear it.

They do this so that you respect your elders, learn how to talk to people, for you to be polite. After the circumcision, if we did something wrong, like talk something bad, we were beaten with a stick so that we would respect our elders and our parents. When we had healed we were taken home.

I felt the pain for a week. When I went to the toilet to urinate I was afraid because the pain was so much. The urine pain was for a week.

My mum feels bad about my circumcision but couldn’t do anything about it because it was her mother doing it. Mostly it is the grandmothers who take us. In Gambia, it is not like here. They will take your child by force and no one will be there for you like the police. My mum didn’t come to my circumcision, she was at home.

I was the first child to have it in our family. I have 2 younger sisters and they have also been circumcised.

When you get married it also disturbs you. When they do circumcision they seal you with a traditional herb they put in your vagina and this hurts. This is so that you won’t be able to have sex before you are married. Then for you to go to your husband will be a problem. You have to go back to them and they will buy a new blade and cut you again to remove the seal. The pain is like the first day when they circumcise you.

And then when you go to your husband, oh my God, it is really painful. For your husband to destroy your virginity is another pain again.

I cried when I went to my husband the first and second nights because it was so painful and the pain lasted 3-4 days.

My husband thinks FGM is very bad. He felt sorry for me as I was crying. He didn’t like it at all.

When you go for labour, you have to be cut so the baby can come out. I had my first child in a hospital in Gambia and had to be cut downwards with scissors. It was really painful.

I will never do that to my children because it is very painful and I would not encourage people to do it.
FGM is a tradition. It is not a religious thing. I would encourage people not to do it because I know how painful it is. My husband does not like it because he knows how I went through it.

My grandmum is in Gambia and she is old now. She could make my mum do it to her daughters but she can’t make her granddaughters do it to their girls.

I heard people are fighting to stop it in Gambia but they haven’t stopped it yet. They normally take us during the holidays when the schools are closed.

Some girls die when they are circumcised.

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