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My story painful but must be told – tale of teen who underwent FGM while pregnant

FGM cutters down their tools and renounce the harmful practice in West Pokot County/UNFPA

MERU, Kenya, Feb 6 – “Efforts to stop the bleeding proved futile. I lost my unconsciousness…” the memories of the fateful day are still raw in Halima’s (not her real name) mind, and though they are painful, she is willing to share all with the world – albeit covertly.

She says “it is an experience that I would never want anyone else to undergo. It is not only painful but can cost your life.”

Her story is an echo of many other similar incidents; some have been told but some victims never got the chance to – they died.

When Halima underwent the cut (Female Genital Mutilation), she was a few months pregnant, at the tender age of 14.

She had to deal with the double fears of being circumcised and becoming a young mother.

“Will my parents accept me? Will I become a good mother? what about my education?” a series of questions ran through her mind, as narrated to Capital FM News.

Halima, a Samburu girl, hails from Isiolo County and though young, she knows a few things about her culture and community.

“Majority of girls do not go to school and the get married at a tender age,” she says.

“You will just need to be cut and your father will provide a husband for you, he may not be of your age.”

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This is the case since when her father demanded that she undergoes the cut was the same period when “my younger sister was being ‘sold’ by my father to someone. She had to undergo the cut.”

“My father asked me to also undergo the cut though I was not getting married.”

The incident happened in August 2015.

“It is time for you to become a woman!” When her father uttered the words, she knew exactly what it meant.

While her younger sister did not have complications after she was circumcised, Halima lost conscious as a result of excessive bleeding.

“I know it is part of our Samburu culture for women to undergo the cut, but I was not ready. I did not want it. But I did not have an excuse, I had to do it,” she said.

She also points out that, “I am young, and I was not ready to become a mother, but I feared that I will lose my baby.”

Halima was later rushed to a hospital and it is at that point, Ripples International, a Non-Governmental Organization with a rescue centre for girls who have undergone her experience and victims of sexual abuse, was contacted. She was rescued.

Her word to the girl child: “Please run away if they want to do that to you. It is bad and painful,” the class six drop-out said.

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Though she has already given birth to a baby boy, her list of worries remains lengthy.

“Once I go back home, I am sure they will marry me off,” Halima said, with a painful tone.

At 16, Halima is willing to go back to school “so that I can learn and become a teacher. If I become one, I will be able to empower other girls in my community. Many of them have undergone a similar experience.”

She is part of the statistics, but Halima says it will not end there.

“I will advise my friends to say no to FGM,” with a firm voice, Halima asserted.

As the world marks the International day to end the Female Genital Mutilation, in Kenya, it remains a major challenge.

Globally, it is estimated that at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone some form of FGM, while girls aged 14 and younger represent 44 million of those who have been cut.

– FGM is a gross violation of human rights –

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there are an estimated 3 million girls at risk of undergoing FGM every year. The majority of girls are cut before they turn 15 years-old.

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Female Genital Mutilation has been documented in 30 countries, mainly in Africa, as well as in the Middle East and Asia.

Some forms of FGM have also been reported in other countries, including among certain ethnic groups in South America.

Moreover, growing migration has increased the number of girls and women living outside their country of origin who have undergone female genital mutilation or who may be at risk of being subjected to the practice in Europe, Australia, and North America.

“With the dignity, health, and well-being of millions of girls at stake, there is no time to waste. Together, we can and must end this harmful practice.” – UN Secretary-General António Guterres says.

According to United Nations, “Every high season, many girls die due to heavy loss of blood or infection after being cut.”

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