“I have 11 children, including 6 girls. All were excised before they got married. I remember the day my youngest daughter underwent excision. She suffered severe bleeding. On the way to the hospital, many thoughts went through my head. I was sad to see her suffer so much and I was afraid of losing her. My daughter was on the verge of death. It was such a relief when she started to heal.
“I've never really accepted excision in my mind, but as a religious leader I had to set a good example to other believers by respecting the custom. I never had the courage to oppose this ancient practice, which physically and emotionally affects our daughters.
“When Plan International started working in our community, it came as a relief. The project gave me confidence to talk openly about the practice and to express my unfavourable opinion. It wasn’t easy to convince my peers at first, but with the support of Plan International and its partner organisation ERAD we attended trainings, sensitisation sessions, debates and general meetings.
“We learned a lot about the complications that arise after excision. For example, I have often heard of obstetric fistula which is a humiliating disease for women. However, I never knew it was caused by female circumcision.
Making a stand
“Since then, I’ve made a firm decision to no longer allow this practice in my family or in my community. I speak without restraint and I visit surrounding villages outside of the project area. It’s good to take part in interesting discussions with religious leaders in other villages.
“Today, many villages have signed a convention to abandon excision in our area. This means our hard work is bearing fruits. There are some villages who have not yet understood the risks of FGM and I am aware it will take some time to rally to the cause. This is why we have to keep raising awareness of these issues and work towards putting a law in place to ban this dangerous practice.”