Today is my birthday and I’m celebrating the rights of girls and women everywhere.
I share a birth sign with the wonderful author Alice Walker. It was by reading her book, Possessing the Secret of Joy, that I first learned intimately about the horrors of female genital mutilation.
FGM is a dangerous practice, carried out in many cultures around the world, including some areas of my birth country Nigeria. It involves the removal of parts of the female genitalia, sometimes with basic instruments like a razor blade.
FGM is typically carried out on girls before they reach puberty, even children as young as 4 years old.
It can cause severe bleeding, infection, infertility and even death.
One girl’s story
Christine (pictured), a 17-year-old from Kenya, was subjected to female genital mutilation when she was 15, before being forced to marry a much older man.
“On my first night in the house with the old man we were left alone together. He forced himself on me and I felt so much pain that I cried. The other wife was waiting at the door and he asked her to come in so that she could make me bigger using a cow’s horn. The eldest daughter of the man also came in to help. It was very shaming and I felt sad afterwards.”
Christine managed to escape her situation and with help from ActionAid and the Kongelai Women’s Network, now has a place at school and is rebuilding a relationship with her family.
Today is the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation. ActionAid is calling on you to join the global fight to end FGM.
How can you help?
Donate to support ActionAid’s work. Follow @ActionAidUK #ENDfgm on Twitter or visit www.actionaid.org.uk/endfgm. Or simply spread the message with your friends and loved ones.
Please help me celebrate the rights of girls and women everywhere.
“the God of woman is autonomy”
― Alice Walker, Possessing the Secret of Joy
Photo credit: Kate Holt/Shoot The Earth/ActionAid