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FGM Survivor Fights Against Female Genital Mutilation

  • VOA News

FILE - A man's T-shirt reads "Stop the Cut" referring to Female Genital Mutilation during a social event advocating against such harmful practices at the Imbirikani Girls High School in Imbirikani, Kenya, April 21, 2016.

Rahma Wako, 50, is an activist working to eradicate FGM 16 years after Kenya banned the practice -- and 44 years after she suffered through the excruciating procedure.

She was cut and sewn at the age of six, according to Rhama, who remembers a hot iron rod was used to heat the place where they cut her. It took 40 days to heal and during that time Rahma says she could not go to the toilet properly.

If she lives to be 100 years old, Rahma says, she will remember the ordeal.

Six years later, her parents married her to a 70-year-old man.

The experience was horrific, she says. Rahma delivered twins nine months later in what she says was a near-death experience.

Rhama says the babies tore her like a piece of cloth because during the FGM they had sewn her up so tight. She says she required 28 stitches after the birth to heal the wound.

After six months, Rahma was pregnant again with twins. She decided to leave her home, filed for divorce, won the case, and gained custody of her four children.

She swore never to become anyone's wife again and to become an anti-GM campaigner.

Rahma Wako celebrates after being named a Human Rights Defender of the year in 2017. (Photo: Embassy of The Netherlands, Kenya)
Rahma Wako celebrates after being named a Human Rights Defender of the year in 2017. (Photo: Embassy of The Netherlands, Kenya)

Tuesday is the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, a U.N.-sponsored annual event.

Female genital mutilation in Africa is an age-old tradition that involves the cutting of the clitoris of young girls and women.

The United Nations estimates at least 200 million girls and women have undergone some form of FGM, including 44 million aged 14 years and younger.

The 2016 UNICEF report said girls and women in 30 countries have been subjected to FGM, more than half from Indonesia, Egypt and Ethiopia.

In Kenya three percent of girls under age 15 have been subjected to FGM. The practice was outlawed in the country in 2001. Those found to be performing FGM can be imprisoned for up to three years.

FILE - Masai girl holds protest sign during anti-Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) run in Kilgoris, Kenya
FILE - Masai girl holds protest sign during anti-Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) run in Kilgoris, Kenya

The practice is usually performed by people who are not trained medical professionals, posing risk of death from excessive bleeding or infection. Later, FGM can cause intense pain during sexual intercourse and complications during deliveries.

Rhama says she became an outcast in her community, fighting against her own culture, but that only energized her determination to fight for girls. She says she has prevented hundreds of girls from undergoing the cut, saving them from the type of suffering she experienced.

Today, Rahma travels to areas where the practice is most prevalent and says she finds that more people are starting to slowly shun the practice.

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