Once upon a time there was a village in Africa. People in the village followed the ways of their forefathers and, as ordained by the forefathers, all the young women of the village entered womanhood through the path of a painful ritual. No one knew when the ritual had begun or why. Now it was the way because it had always been the way. Daughters wept and begged to be spared from taking part in the ritual, but were met by the stony faces of their mothers who replied, “We did not die from the pain. Neither will you. No decent boy will want you if you are not cut.”
And so a new generation joined their mothers in a horrific continuation of painful abuse, whose far-reaching effects stained their lives as mothers and wives.
Nancy and Gertrude were two young girls who should have been cut already, but they were fighters. Nancy absolutely refused to have it done. She had ambitions to complete her schooling and train for something which would equip her to return to the village and help her people to improve their lives. Marriage, which would immediately follow the ritual, was not in her immediate plans.
Gertrude too, was adamant in her determination not to be cut. A soft spoken and generally obedient child, she was to be married after the ritual so that her family could use her dowry to eucate her brothers. She wanted to continue her studies and dreamt of being a doctor one day. She was fortunate to have a mother who was her ally, who didn’t want her only daughter to suffer the pain and abuse that she had suffered. Nevertheless, her father was determined that she must suffer the ritual cut and be married as soon as possible. A husband had been found and the dowry had changed hands.
Into this situation came a group of people who were determined to change the lives of girls from the Pokot villages. Some were from the tribe and some were from without. Together they began to formulate an alternative ritual, one without cutting, which would symbolize the move from childhood to womanhood. It was hoped that the new ritual would gradually become accepted until there would be no need for the cutting ritual.
After much planning, the day of the new rite of passage dawned. Surprisingly, a substantial number of girls attended the special “camp”. Nancy quickly showed her leadership qualities and was chosen by the girls to be their spokesman at the final ceremony. Her speech at the ceremony was passionate and articulate. Elders and parents alike listened with new respect. It was a new beginning…
Written in response to the monthly writing competition prompt over at elizabethfrattaroli. Although this being a true story may disqualify it, I would like to share it if I may. Thank you.
This is a true story. Every year, many young girls undergo the painful ritual described here. But the alternative ritual and Nancy and Gertrude are real too. You can watch the video of their story here.
Update:I did an internet search to find more information. Nancy and Gertrude have continued their secondary schooling which appears to be funded by money collected by the Guardian after the screening of the video in which their story was told. Cath Holland, the Lancashire midwife who started the campaign for an alternative ritual by inviting local midwives to Britain and educating them on the dangers of FGM, is still passionately involved in the campaign to end it. There are many worldwide campaigns to end this violent practice. If you want to help, google “end FGM”and support one of them.
Posted on the run