Kenya Continues the Fight Against Female Genital Mutilation

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.

Fifty-year-old Rahma Wako is an activist working to eradicate FGM, 16 years after Kenya banned the practice.

Rhama says she was cut and sewn at the age of six and explains they used a hot iron rod to heat the place where they cut, and it took 40 days to heal. She says for those 40 days she could not go to the toilet properly, and if she lives to be 100 years old she will remember the ordeal.

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

She says the experience was horrific. She delivered twins nine months later in 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 says she decided to leave her home, Rhama filed for divorce, won the case and had custody of her four children. She swore never to become anyone’s wife again and to become an anti-GM campaigner.

Rhama says she was an outcast in her community, fighting against her own culture and that gave her energy to fight for girls. She says she has prevented many girls from undergoing the cut and suffering all she had experienced.

Rahma has rescued hundreds of girls from undergoing the cut. She travels to areas where the practice is most prevalent. She says more people are starting to slowly shun the practice.

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.

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.

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