Today, over 200 million women and girls worldwide are living with the effects of FGM. On average, four babies and girls are cut every minute of every hour, every single day.
In The Gambia and Sierra Leone, where Safe Hands for Girls' African work is focused, eight out of every ten girls undergo FGM. In the USA, over half a million women and girls are living with the effects of FGM.
We cannot tolerate this any longer.
Our work in communities, in schools, with religious leaders and with governments is turning the tide, but progress is too slow. The only way to end FGM is to change attitudes, and we're doing that through conversations with people like Awa (pictured here), a community midwife (although she has had no training) and former cutter.
Awa (not her real name) used to receive a small payment for carrying out FGM on baby girls who were a few weeks old. If the girl's parents could afford it, they would bring a new razor blade for Awa to use. If not, she used an old razor blade, or a tribal knife.
Awa learned to cut from her mother and her grandmother, and in turn, she taught her daughter and granddaughter to cut. She boasted that she was one of the best cutters, because "her girls very rarely died after the operation." When asked why she did it, she explained that if a woman wasn't cut, there would be no way for her to give birth - a baby's head just couldn't fit through an uncut vagina.
Safe Hands for Girls spent a long time talking with Awa, in her home. One of our team is a trained midwife, and explained to her in detail how uncut women are able to give birth safely, and the physical harm caused by FGM. Another of our team, herself an FGM survivor, described the agony she experienced when giving birth. We listened to Awa's arguments, responded respectfully, and made several return visits.
After a few weeks, Awa announced that she would no longer be cutting girls, and that she would forbid her daughter and granddaughter to cut. "My family is dropping the knife," she told us. "I believed I was helping girls, but now I see I was only hurting them."
We are ready to reach more people like Awa, but we can't do it alone. Please, join us in the fight against FGM today, by giving whatever you can.
If you represent a foundation, company or group, and would like to discuss working with us, please email email@example.com.
Barbara Nelson Muirhead
I am horrified by this practice, and so grateful to you for your efforts to end it.