By: Yossa Immaculate Daisy
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a cultural ritual practiced in a number of countriesUgandainclusive. In this part of the world, it is practiced in three main tribes of the Pokot, Sabiny and Tepeth all found in the eastern part of the country. It is one of those rituals “believed” to initiate all girls from childhood to adulthood. The practice is a form of torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment that young girls undergo without their will and consent which puts their lives at risk.
Girls as young as 12 years once circumcised are married off to older men. Additionally, because of the way it is done, the practice is said to reduce or worse still permanently terminate a woman’s sexual feelings during intercourse. Situations where girls die have also been brought to light from this process. These often times are through infections due to the rudimentary way of doing it and the unclean knives/blades used. Other causes of death have been instances where the victims loose too much blood and yet not given the necessary medical care. Unfortunately, this practice has persisted because of the cultural attitude of the people that does not value education for the women and therefore girls are unable to continue with school. The high levels of illiteracy among women and their poor economic status doesn’t make matters any better.
Uganda joined the rest of the world to celebrate the International Day of zero tolerance to FGM on February 6th.2012. The theme was “community approach, community involvement in the elimination of Female Genital Mutilation”. Through community involvement it is envisaged that peoples attitudes will change towards a culture that is supportive of the social and economic empowerment of girls and women, remarked the UNFPA country representative inUganda. It is similarly hoped that communities and leaders would realize that it is education not genital cutting that should be the new alternative for measuring the value of girls and young women. Once girls choose to go to school where they are able to get more information, in the long run they are in a better position to resist this practice. They become exposed to the realities and realize that FGM is harmful and ends their educational life.
Through dialogue by means of educating the very people who practice it to teach against it, some milestones are being reached in these communities inUganda. They make use of the very people who are part of such societies but have snubbed such archaic practices to talk about the dangers of FGM. Sensitization has also been another avenue through which the communities are reached. Through partnerships like the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Devolvement in Uganda and UNICEF, UNFPA as cases in point, support is given for community activism to accelerate FGM abandonment. Media campaigns and workshops with key stakeholders like community leaders, religious leaders, influential elderly women and former mutilators has seen much change in the practice through these people. Personal testimonies from those who opted not to undergo FGM have also worked to avert those who would have embraced this practice.
FGM is a practice that needs to be wiped out. It not only degrades a woman but restricts her from enjoying other rights that she is entitled to as a woman.