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.

I recently spoke to my Mum about it and she told me that it’s not that common and that it’s not a religious or cultural practice where they live. She said that even if it happens, it happens in very rural areas. She was surprised that I had come across it and said her family and friends didn’t go through it. I knew much more than she did and she hadn’t realised how serious it was in terms of the physical and mental trauma it causes.

I also spoke to a friend who came with me to an Oxford Against Cutting event. My friend is from the south of Nigeria and lived near the Osun state where FGM is prevalent but even she didn’t know anything about FGM.

I’ve also talked to my sister in the UK about FGM and she was so surprised also. After we spoke she read the book, Desert Flower. It was frightening for her as she is worried that her Somali friends may have been through FGM.

I think this lack of knowledge shows how people keep quiet about FGM. People are very closed about this issue because it’s about their private parts.

I am Muslim and try as much as I can to follow the Qu’ran and the Sunnah, and not the cultural aspects. FGM is not religious at all. When I first found out about it, I asked a lot of people and there’s no religious aspect to it. It’s not in the Qur’an or the Sunnah, rather it is intertwined with culture.

Whatever is harmful to your health, you should avoid at all costs – this is in the Qu’ran. Women have so many rights when you sit down and read the Qu’ran but looking at culture, you wouldn’t know it.

People should be educated about the risks of FGM and learn that there’s no benefit to it. If we educate women they would have a stronger voice and not just be told to do something. The law should be enforced and people should be made an example of, like the people who do FGM in horrendous numbers. They’ve banned FGM in Nigeria but people don’t know what will happen if they are caught doing it.

I’ve been raising awareness about FGM on social media and this reaches people in the UK and Nigeria. No one ever responds to my posts on social media – I think people are keeping away from the subject because it’s sensitive, like fistula. Fistula is similar because it’s caused by cultural practices, like women believing that they should give birth at home, not in hospitals. They do this, sometimes because they don’t have the money to get to hospital, but usually because this is what their great grandmothers did. A lot of youth are talking a lot more about FGM in Nigeria.

I think we need to break the stereotype and the fact that people think FGM is religious and something they have to do to make a woman a woman. We can do this through education of women and men. We need to educate women by making them more comfortable to talk, otherwise they will stay silent. Women like to talk to women of the same generation.

I have learned that about 20 million women and girls in Nigeria have undergone FGM. Many of them are cut as infants and others before the age of 5. In 2015, FGM was banned but the law isn’t being enforced and law officials haven’t taken the step forward make sure that FGM is fully stopped throughout the country. In Nigeria FGM has caused a lot of the women a great number of issues, including infertility, maternal death and infection. Osun state in Nigeria has the highest prevalence. More than 50 percent of women and 50 percent of men believe that FGM should be stopped in Nigeria.

The growing youth have access to internet and a determination to make a change. Our willpower and determination can be used for a great cause, where so many lives will be saved and so many people’s stereotypes can be eliminated. I am a Nigerian, but I have heard more about FGM in the U.K. than I have in Nigeria, which goes to show how lightly the issue is taken while a lot of women suffer in silence.

My family is one full of women, and I could not imagine any one of them going through FGM and having to live with not only physical pains but emotional ones as well, and for that fact I cannot imagine any other women in Nigeria going through this. Culture is beautiful but when it comes in the way of one’s health then it should be stopped. If the ban on FGM can be effectively enforced then this will be a step forward in helping Nigerian women gain the rights they deserve.

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