By James Baldock
I was sitting in a meeting talking to the leader of our Nisa’a Women’s Project Asha, when she told me that the writers for our online women’s magazine were coming in for a workshop shortly. Asha invited me to attend part of the workshop to get a feel for the work that goes into the project and writing, so I accepted and asked what the focus of the workshop was. I was then told that they were about to go into a campaign about female genital mutilation (FGM) in North African society.
They were putting on the workshop because several of the writers had shared apprehension about writing on this topic and the project leaders wanted to brainstorm with them on how to talk about this sensitive subject. Due to the nature of the workshop and wanting to be sensitive to our female writers, I excused myself and my female colleague Sabra attended on my behalf.
When the workshop had concluded Sabra came to me and said, “Thank goodness you didn’t attend! There were tears flowing throughout the workshop. The writer’s apprehension was due to over half of them actually having suffered through the ordeal of having FGM done to them when they were younger.”
It is shocking to me that even in a city in North Africa, there is such a high percentage of FGM happening to young girls and women. It’s not in small villages or exclusive to the uneducated, it is still a deeply held belief that FGM is a good thing for girls across the region.
Sabra continued to tell me about one of the writers who had shared that she had gone through the ordeal of FGM. Moreover, her mother-in-law was pressuring her to get her two daughters circumcised. The writer exclaimed that she didn’t want her daughters to have to go through that trauma and have their bodies mutilated, but that her mother-in-law was most insistent. She felt scared for her daughters because she couldn’t be with them all the time and there was a possibility that it could happen to them without their mother’s knowledge.
Having a daughter myself, I couldn’t imagine what she was going through on a daily basis. Any parent wants the best for their children, but in this culture there is a generationally held belief that FGM is vital for all girls. It was explained to me that it wasn’t necessarily carried out with evil intentions, but rather through the wrongly held beliefs of parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. Unfortunately, it’s not going to be a quick fix to stop this from happening as it is ingrained on the culture of the region.
Thankfully, after the workshop the writers were full of passion and vision for the possibilities that were in front of them. By writing articles about FGM, explaining the misconceptions, exploring the science, and talking about the generationally held beliefs, they have a way to fight this issue and educate people across the Arab world. It was incredibly inspirational to hear that these women were going to take a traumatic experience that they had gone through and use that experience to educate others to stop the practice of FGM.
It is estimated that more than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone FGM.
3 million girls are at risk of undergoing FGM every year.
The majority of girls are cut before they turn 15 years old.
*Statistics taken from World Health Organisation.
Our Nisa’a Women’s project has over 550,000 readers of their online magazine and have had over 1.2 million people engage with their social media pages over the last twelve months. With that many readers and impact on culture, we have such an opportunity to use that influence to start lowering the numbers of those who have to go through this trauma and see more young women flourish into their futures.
Media itself has an important role to play in transforming the ideas and beliefs of society, which subsequently can lead to transforming lives for the better and preparing people to understand and accept a loving God. I hope that you will join with me in praying for these brave women who, over the coming weeks and months, will write about their experiences and knowledge of FGM to fight against this major issue across the Arab world.
*Names in this article were changed for security reasons.
Pray for the writers of our online magazine, thank God for their bravery in approaching this topic, and ask God to guide and heal them as they write these important articles.
Pray that the 200 million girls and women who have undergone FGM would be able to find emotional and psychological healing for their ordeal.
Pray that God would guide people across the Arab world to end this practice and that we would see a miraculous decrease in the number of girls who are going through this.