Many girls who go through it often do not opt for it.
Female genital mutilation has for long been regarded as human right abuse against women and girls under the Kenya law and internationally, but this act is still practiced in dadab refugee camps.
Shamso Ahmed* is now 19years old and was born in Dadaab refugee camps where she lives with her parents. She is a victim of FGM. Shamso lived happily like any other child, growing up she attended Islamic academy at the age three and joined Primary when she turned five. She had dreams, dreams of becoming a powerful and influential women in the society. One day when she turned 7 her mother took her outside and gave her the surprise. Shamso* was soon going to be the a real women- and the mark of real women in this case was to undergo circumcision.
FGM is harmful traditional practice and eradicating it is a challenge because of background as well as culture. In the Somali community, fgm is viewed as a successful traditional right of passage.
Shamso* recalls her affliction.it was a painful period for her.
“My wound got infected after being circumcised and I was in critical condition.going to the bathroom was such a process it really hurt. Despite my anguish, my parents did not take me to hospital. Not because they did not love me, but he fear of the police getting involving and our home becoming a crime scene” she says.
Shamso ‘s mother is 73 years. She has been traditional circumcision practitioner for over 17 years and says her work can be termed as successful during this period. She claims people used to travel from other camps seeking to gain from her the skills in the art of circumcision.
“They look for me to circumcise their girls so that they grow as real women”
FGM can be classified into various types. The one practiced by the Somali community is Pharaoniccircumcision. It involves complete removal of clitoris and closing of the vaginal opening leaving only a tiny opening to allow for menses to take place; explains Shamso’s mother. She is now blind and can no longer practice the art but she still strongly supports it.
Shamso was treated using herbal medicine. She is lucky enough to have lived through the ordeal. Other girls have not always been lucky. She however did not survive the practice of early marriage. She had to drop out of school at the age of 13 years and was married off to a man in his 30s. She states that she was not happy with the marriage but it was not in her capacity to reject as that is considered taboo.
She recalls the trauma of being married so early.
“My first night after the weeding was hell. My body couldn’t resist the pressure and it led to a lot of bleeding. I was in great pain. My mother and grandmother came the following morning to check the white bed sheets. They congratulated me on seeing the pool of blood. They told me I had uplifted the family’s name and faithful for not breaking my virginity”
UNHCR and other implementing agencies consider FGM a harmful traditional practice and violation of human rights but nothing much had been done to stop the practice.
Rukiya Hassan 38 doesn’t approve the practice of FGM. In her opinion, the main reason for practicing FGM in Somali community is to ensure that girls remain a virgin until marriage. It is a mechanism put in place to control sexual desire, a religious obligation and fear of rejection by the community as many men prefer to marry circumcised girls.
Shamso Ali 22 is also a victim of FGM.
“It is so painful during brith and increases the chances of complications.”
“I would never wish to see my children go through the kind of pain I did even if it is at the expense of my marriage.”
During birth she blames FGM for her 3 days trauma when she had her first born.
Mumina Abdi who is 57 years old says that she gets a lot of respect from the community for being one of the circumcision practitioner. She fears if she stops the practice, it will effect her status in the community.
Shamso is now 18 years and a mother of two girls. She had sworn to protect her daughters from being circumcised. She would never wish her daughters to go through the same pain she did.
Sheikh Abdullahi clearly states that religion has nothing to do with Pharaonic circumcision. He describes it as haram and sinful; and clarifies that Islam recommends sunni circumcision which is cutting only a small part of the clitoris.
Some Dagahaley residents say that elderly men and the youth are influential in the community and can help in the fight against FGM. If everybody campaigns against it. The community is advised and educated on the effects of FGM. This barbaric act would eventually stop.
Many women and girls in Dadaab Refugee Camp believe that the fight against FGM is justice delayed and strongly believe that empowering women can end this harmful practice.