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From uncertainty to Hope: Fighting FGM in Guinea-Bissau

The practice of FGM has been rising sharply in the country in the last 10 years, due to increased poverty, illiteracy, social injustice and impunity due to weak institutions that fail to address the practice. Due to this, Plan International Germany teamed up with the European Commission in order to implement a project aiming at promoting a culture of respect for human rights in 40 communities in Guinea-Bissau with special emphasis on the practice of FGM. Siren was one of the women who saw her life change after benefiting from the project.

Siren's story

52-year-old Siren comes from an Islamic community in the eastern part of Guinea-Bissau, where the practice of FGM is very common.

Siren was subject to circumcision when she was a child. She suffered obstetric fistula - one of the complications resulting from FGM - and lived with the consequences for years after the operation. She endured immense physical and psychosocial difficulties in her life. 

When she got pregnant for the first time, Siren had enormous difficulties during the delivery. Sadly, her child did not survive. From there, many more complications began to accompany her throughout life.

A fortune squandered

She spent her entire savings seeking for a solution through traditional treatment. “All traditional healers deceived me, saying they could help me overcome my complications," she said. "Ultimately it was all a lie, and they made me squander my fortune. I am now a poor woman in my community, and was losing hope of one day easing this great suffering."

I was losing hope of one day easing this great suffering

Siren married three more times, but none of her husbands felt able to cope with her symptoms. During this time, she fell pregnant five times - each pregnancy resulted in miscarriage.  

Plan International's project in Guinea-Bissau not only aims at ending this harmful practice, but also focuses on helping women already living with the consequences of the practice, thanks to a safe surgical intervention.  

When Siren first found out that treatment might be available, she thought it would be impossible to help her - afterall, she had spent her entire life seeking a solution to the problem and had never found one. “Only God can make such a miracle,” she claimed.

A new hope

But Siren finally regained hope and decided to give the operation a try. Ever since the surgery, Siren lives free of pain. She improved her relationships with the rest of the community and her family members. She found a new hope for the future. “I am now very proud of myself” said Siren.

Today, Siren has a new husband who gives her the attention she needs and deserves. Siren is now more confident in her daily life and in her relationships with others. 

"It changed my life and made me believe in miracles”, Siren concluded.  

 

For more information about Plan International's work in Guinea-Bissau go to plan-international.org/guinea-bissau.

For more information about the work of the European Commission's International Cooperation and Development Directorate General, please click here.