Discuss culture and traditions
User avatar
By Tom
#5915
Wow, heavy discussion. I'm not going to get in the middle of it, but I would like to share what I myself have discovered.

I read in this thread that there is a report claiming that this practice is down to a 20% incidence level. I've been living in Guinea, on and off, since 2003. I've spoken with dozens of females about this practice and every single one of them report to have had it done. Actually, there was one exception, but she was born and raised in Senegal. From what I've seen the level is close to 100% in Guinea. I have absolutely no doubt of that. There are even groups (societies) here who kidnap these young girls and perform the procedure on them, even if their parents are not in agreement. My partner here was the victim of an attempted kidnapping. They let her go when they realized that she had already had the procedure performed.

The first hand stories I've heard are horrifying and I hope that one day this practice will end.

Whew, I managed to get through this post without saying circumcision or mutilation.
User avatar
By e2c
#5918
Tom wrote:Wow, heavy discussion. I'm not going to get in the middle of it, but I would like to share what I myself have discovered.

I read in this thread that there is a report claiming that this practice is down to a 20% incidence level. I've been living in Guinea, on and off, since 2003. I've spoken with dozens of females about this practice and every single one of them report to have had it done. Actually, there was one exception, but she was born and raised in Senegal. From what I've seen the level is close to 100% in Guinea. I have absolutely no doubt of that. There are even groups (societies) here who kidnap these young girls and perform the procedure on them, even if their parents are not in agreement. My partner here was the victim of an attempted kidnapping. They let her go when they realized that she had already had the procedure performed.

The first hand stories I've heard are horrifying and I hope that one day this practice will end.
Tom, thanks so much for posting about this. What you're saying doesn't surprise me - including the kidnappings, which is something several individuals and families who've fled to the US and Europe have talked about very openly. In the case of the Nigerian family in Ireland (that I posted about several pages back), people attempted to kidnap both of their younger daughters, which precipitated the mom's flight - with those girls - to Ireland. (am also personally aware of some kidnappings - taking kids from the US to Nigeria - for same/similar reasons. I used to work with someone who had lost her kids in this way, though it was a complex situation and involved more than just ceremonies of this kind...)

I did find some good articles on the high incidence of border crossing in many W. African countries re. people who take children to go through FGM/C from places where they are likely to be prosecuted to places where either nobody cares or really knows. It sounds like there are multiple networks of people involved; probably also what you're saying re. "societies" (i.e., organized crime), but would need to dig up the links...
User avatar
By e2c
#5920
Apropos of Tom's post, here is a recent news story from Sierra Leone.
from http://www.mediafound.org/
Media Foundation for West Africa
PO Box LG 730
30 Duade Street, Kokomlemle
Legon, Accra
Ghana
alerts (@) mediafound.org
Phone: +233 21 242470
Fax: +233 21 221084

11 February 2009
ALERT
Four female journalists kidnapped, subjected to public humiliation by supporters of female genital mutilation

INCIDENT DETAILS
Manjama Balama-Samba, Henrietta Kpaka, Isha Jalloh, Jenneh Brima
journalist(s)

(MFWA/IFEX) - On 7 February 2009, four female journalists were taken hostage in Kanema, approx. 200 km from Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, by members of a traditional female group called the Bondo Society. The group contested the journalists' reporting of female genital mutilation (FGM) practices in the county.

Manjama Balama-Samba and Henrietta Kpaka of the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service (SLBS), and their colleagues, Isha Jalloh and Jenneh Brima of Eastern Radio, were picked up and detained in a bush for more than two and a half hours for allegedly filing reports on their respective stations about the practice of FGM in the town.

MFWA's correspondent reported that the journalists were stripped naked and mistreated. They were paraded through the streets and taken to the palace of Amara Bonya Vangahun, the paramount chief of the town. The family support unit of Sierra Leone later intervened and had them released.

MFWA's correspondent also reported that the leader of the Society, Haja Massah Kaisamba, justified the treatment of the journalists on a radio program. Kaisamba insisted that the journalists were detained following unfavourable comments they had made on their stations about FGM. She threatened further action against such anti-FGM campaigns. The four journalists have denied any wrongdoing.

Balama-Samba, who also works for United Nations Radio, reported receiving earlier threats from the group on 6 February.

Meanwhile, there has been widespread condemnation of the attack on the journalists.

MFWA calls on the police to investigate the matter and deal decisively with the leadership of the Bondo Society, whose actions are barbaric and defy all civility. MFWA further calls on Sierra Leonean authorities to condemn the group's actions.
Part of an article on this incident from Reporters Without Borders (linked at a Sierra Leonean news portal site, http://www.thepatrioticvanguard.com/spi ... rticle3716)
The four reporters - Manjama Balama-Samba of the United Nations radio and the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service (SLBS), Henrietta Kpaka of the SLBS, Isha Jalloh of Eastern Radio and Jenneh Brima, also of Eastern Radio - were kidnapped on 6 February by members of Bondo, a secret society that practices FGM. The next day, their abductors forcibly undressed Balama-Samba and made her walk naked through the streets.

The journalists had been conducting a series of interviews jointly with the Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices in order to mark International Day of Zero Tolerance of Female Genital Mutilation, which was celebrated on 6 February for the 5th year running. The Bondo group regarded their questions and comments as a sign of disrespect for their traditions.

According to UN estimates, 94 per cent of women in Sierra Leone have been subjected to FGM. Sources in Sierra Leone put it at more like 65 per cent, partly as a result of the country’s Christians taking a stand against the practice. The government publicly undertook last year to adopt a law banning FGM but has not yet done so.
User avatar
By e2c
#5921
From The Washington Post, November 2008, an article titled "Area Immigrants with Wounds that Won't Heal" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/co ... 19_pf.html )

Discussion includes a review of many asylum (or maybe I should say "attempted asylum") cases here in the US.

This is one of the best pieces I've come across.... well worth reading.

I'll just quote two of the women who were interviewed, and leave the rest to all of you to seek out, if you're so inclined... The speaker is a Senegalese woman named Eliza:
"I was 7. They put a large fabric on the floor. There were about 50 other girls there, too. The people danced and beat drums. The grown-ups held me down. My mother was screaming, but they beat her and held her away. Then they cut me and I was bleeding. It hurt and I was crying and bleeding and crawling. I crawled for a whole week."
Later in the article, Eliza's mother is quoted
Eliza and her mother participate in a women's group at the Tahirih center, where they can talk freely about their struggles. But both said they still feel uncomfortable revealing their stories, guilty and confused about the family ties and tribal beliefs they fled, and permanently damaged by their long-ago ordeal.

"It is not a scar. It is a wound that never goes away," Eliza's mother said. "I heard that the [US] courts said once you are cut, then it is over and you are fine. But how can you be fine when what makes you a woman is missing? How can you be fine when you have a hole in your body and your soul?"
User avatar
By Tom
#5926
It was in Sierra Leone where my partner was kidnapped.

Two days ago our close friend, Blanche (12 years old), was taken from her Grandmother's house by her aunt in order to have her "circumcised". The grandmother was not in agreement and instructed Blanche to run away from her aunt's house, which she has done. I'm trying to get info now on where she is so that we can help her out. It's insanity.
User avatar
By e2c
#5927
Tom wrote:It was in Sierra Leone where my partner was kidnapped.

Two days ago our close friend, Blanche (12 years old), was taken from her Grandmother's house by her aunt in order to have her "circumcised". The grandmother was not in agreement and instructed Blanche to run away from her aunt's house, which she has done. I'm trying to get info now on where she is so that we can help her out. It's insanity.
OMG - I hope she's OK, Tom. Please keep us posted.

Is there any way in which those of us who are in the West can help re. good places for donations (etc.) for health care and education? I've been investigating that a bit, but have yet to come to any conclusions about any of the organizations I've looked at - and figure that you, your partner and others would have some practical suggestions, since you're right there.

Please feel free to PM me on this, and thanks!
User avatar
By Tom
#5929
I was informed last night that she is back with her mother. The grandmother is against it, the aunt is for it, but we're not sure what the decision of her mother will be. I'll let you know what happens.

I am also asking around to see if a safe house has been established for girls who decide to run.
User avatar
By e2c
#5933
I hope Blanche is OK.... her grandmother, too - and her aunt. It's hard for me to imagine the impact this must have on families and relationships, so I do feel for all of them.

Will be awaiting more news. I do hope there is - or soon will be - a safe house available, and helpers, too.
Last edited by e2c on Wed Jul 22, 2009 4:30 am, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
By Tom
#6101
I wish I had good news for you but it's all bad instead. My partner Yenno went to the Grandmother's compound where several of the grandchildren stay (all girls). The grandmother was the only one there because the girls' mothers had come to take them for the circumcision ceremony. Blanche is with the group as is her younger sister. The grandmother tried to discourage the girls' mothers from taking them but they did not agree. Blanche's younger sister has AIDS which she contracted at birth from an unsterilized scalpel. The procedure puts her especially at risk and could possibly put the other girls at risk as well. I don't know where they do the procedure or if they sterilize their instruments, but it sounds like a dangerous situation. Any news I receive I will pass on to you.

So far no leads on any organization here which can assist girls who want to flee. I will continue to ask around.
User avatar
By e2c
#6106
Oh man... (Not that I expected a different outcome, but still... the part about Blanche's sister is especially heartbreaking.)

I'm pretty sure you can assume that whatever blade is used won't be sterilized, unless it's done in a clinic or hospital (and even then, there could still be serious problems, including unsterilized instruments).

I will continue to keep these girls in my thoughts and prayers, along with their families.
#6109
I don't think anyone else mentioned this yet. There is an excellent movie about this: Moolaade. This is very much worth watching! You can find this easily at Amazon and other places. I got mine from a Blockbuster store, of all places.

Cheers,

Michi.
#6110
yea, saw moolaade (pulaar for 'protection') when it first came out here. good stuff, sends a message that united, women do have the power to make significant change in their society. the problem is that no parent wants their children to be singled out for being different, so most parents reluctantly carry on the practice even when it no longer has any cultural relevance. moolaade did a good job depicting the pressures that parents often receive from family and community to have their daughters cut - outright intimidation tactics and in this case violence. the senegalese producer/director of the film, ousmane sembene, was dubbed the 'father of african film'. starting out in the early 60s he produced 10 films that were all shown internationally. he also wrote a similar number of books, including xala, a story about corruption, which he later turned into a film. moolade was his final work and won the 2004 cannes and fespaco film festivals.