Fighting Female Circumcision
Training in Trivandrum, Monicah Wanjiru from Kenya is all fired up to fight FGM | By Sabin Iqbal
On Jul 26, 2010


Birth pangs had begun, but she knew she had to escape her husband's people before she was taken in for delivery.  

Escape meant walking through the Ngong forest in Oloseos, near Nairobi. It was not easy, especially when the baby in her belly was beginning to come out.

But she was determined to brave the forest to run away from people who were waiting for a chance to get rid of the social taboo she had brought to the family.

They were waiting for a chance to mutilate her genitals--female circumcision. But that was the last thing she wanted.

She decided to run away, and walked nearly 15 kilometres through the forest in the last stages of her pregnancy. It took a full day. By the time she reached the village at the other side of the forest where her aunt lived, she collapsed and delivered her first baby.

Since that day Monicah Wanjiru has determined to fight Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), which is rampant across Africa, across religions and ethnic groups.  

“It is brutal, it is rampant across Africa,” says Monicah, who is undergoing a one-year scholarship programme at the International Institute for Social Entrepreneurs (IISE) at Vellayani, Trivandrum.  

“I ran away because I didn't want to get circumcised even though I was being scorned and jeered at,” she adds. Being uncircumcised is not a good sign for a girl--Natito, which in Maasai language means 'uncircumcised', is a cuss word.

FGM is cruel, and it is human rights violation. “A woman has no voice. She has to be circumcised if she is to be accepted in the society,”

There are three types of FGM.

Clitoridectomy; type 1: This is the total or partial removal of the clitoris and it is mainly practised in the Central province of Kenya

Excision; type 2:
This is the total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora with or without the excision of the labia majora and it is mainly practised by the Maasais and other tribes in the western part of Kenya such as the Abagusii.

Infibulation; type 3: This is the narrowing down of the vaginal orifice with creation of a covering seal by cutting and placing together the labia minora and the labia majora in most cases with the excision of the clitoris and in rare cases without the removal of the clitoris.

They even use glass shards to cut, which most of the time will lead to infections.

The type 3 is by far the widely spread form of circumcision in Africa, especially in the Northern part.  

“This is done to ensure the purity of a girl until marriage and in most cases girls do not survive the operation as they are performed in unhygienic conditions,” says Monicah, who was married off at the age of 16.

“When the girl gets married the husband opens her up with a knife on the night of her wedding,” adds Monicah, who has been in Trivandrum, getting trained on running an NGO to fight this menace.

An 'open' girl will not bring any dowry to her parents. Instead, she will bring shame and scorn.  

It is when Monicah finishes her course here at the IISE that her real work starts. “I plan to start by motivating women in the village of Olepolos by raising up peer educators who will be going from door to door educating mothers and girls on the dangers of FGM.”  

After that, she is planning to have several discussion groups in the women's self-help groups where they will be encouraged to share their experiences and fears as this will be essential in the protection of the girl child from the harmful traditional beliefs.  


Monicah Wanjiru iise trivandrum yentha

Monicah Wanjiru at IISE

Stephanie Walsh won the Pulitzer prize for photography in 1996 with this picture of FGM

“We will be providing essential services including prevention, recovery and reintegration by supporting women who oppose FGM and help for those who have undergone the procedure including medical health services to deal with the health consequences of FGM which tend to be life-long.”

Monicah's project will ensure that there are awareness programmes as well as educational activities in schools and in the communities. “Involving young men who are against the practice is one way of freeing girls from the belief that if they don't undergo the operation they will not get husbands to marry them,” she adds.

She is planning to organise games such as football, which is popular among the youth in Kenya, and volleyball, and talent shows to create awareness and campaigns where they speak against FGM.  

“And, of course, seeking help from international conventions and ensuring laws that ban FGM are enforced by making sure the practitioners and parents of the girl in question are penalised. Last but not the least, ensuring that girls have an initiation day where they graduate with a certificate after undergoing a health and sex education instead of being circumcised.”

Apart from all these activities, Monicah will try and involve religious and moral leaders who will explain that there is no religious justification for the practice.

Vague Origin

It is not clearly known, but available literature traces FGM, which predates Christianity, Islam and other religions, to have started in Egypt. It is suspected that Egyptian kings promoted the practice of circumcising Israeli women to make them infertile so as to reduce the population of the Israelites. This cruel practice moved across the countries with migrations.

It is also said that men used to go on hunting expeditions and they would leave their wives at home for as long as two to three months. In order to stem the risk of women engaging in adultery and promiscuity, they started cutting their spouses' clitoris in order to reduce the women's sexual desire and libido.  

Currently, over 28 countries in Africa practise FGM. It is also practised in the Middle East and Asian countries. In the West, the practice is carried out mainly by African and Asian migrants.

Kerala Scene

If we think we are far too away from such practices, don't be shocked to know that there are pockets in Kerala, that too in Trivandrum, where female circumcision is practised, even though not in such a horrible manner as in Africa.

In certain communities, when a girl child is born, a minor version of the FGM is practised during a ritual that takes place on the 40th day of the baby's birth.

It is done on the sly and without any protest from women. In fact, it is the women who take the initiative to see the baby is 'slightly cut'.

Even though, at present, a community practice, it is still a human right violation and cruelty to infants.

Wonder if we will ever have Monicahs in our society, in case we need them.


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Ohhh horrible. Heart breaking stuff. Wonderful story Sabin. Its clearly a human right violation and the bloody communities think that its a custom, which is the saddest part. Yentha Rocks!!!
Richy D Alexander, on Jul 27, 2010 10:24:42 AM
Huh horrible and noxious.
Resmi, on Jul 27, 2010 11:35:29 AM
Thanks Richy and Resmi. It is really shocking stuff. You should meet Monicah, a bundle of energy.
Sabin, on Jul 27, 2010 12:18:55 PM
Never knew that FMG happens in Kerala too.... Most of the African countries have male dominated societies where the women have little or no say on matters that involve her. I hope education and awareness shall change the current scenario..nd I read that it is indeed changing for the better.. but then it is also ironic that with all these crude precautions dumped on women, AIDS and such diseases are more common in these countries.
Happy Kitten, on Jul 27, 2010 01:55:33 PM
Was aware of such practises in African countries. Shocked to know that it happens in Kerala too...
Pratheesh Prakash, on Jul 28, 2010 12:25:45 PM
Its amazing a word “circumcision” described quit extensively by unveiling such atrocious believes and practices which known to be brutally originated from Egypt and decently practiced in our town say 'slightly cut' ………no justification….
Sudheer T S, on Jul 30, 2010 04:54:10 PM
fgm is a crual custom . it should be stopped
Sabeena, on Sep 02, 2010 12:14:04 PM
An Egyptian doctor has been arrested after she performed a botched circumcision that killed a young girl, a newspaper reported on Friday. The independent daily Shorouk reported that police were alerted to the death of the girl, whose body was illegally buried to hide the crime, after a call to a help line the government set up to monitor female circumcision. The doctor, from the Nile Delta governate of Menufiya, has been referred to a criminal court, the paper reported. The sometimes deadly practice of female circumcision was banned in Egypt in 2007, but is believed still to be common. A 2005 government report found that more than 95 percent of Egyptian women had undergone the extremely painful procedure which can severely mutilate the genitals.
Ameena, on Sep 05, 2010 11:10:18 AM
Save Girls from Female Genital Cutting --------------------- An estimated 100 to 140 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with the consequences of female genital cutting, also called female circumcision. Female genital cutting includes several different forms of cutting practiced for hundreds of years. Infibulation, the most severe, involves cutting some or all of the external genitalia, leaving only a very small opening for urination and menstruation. The procedure can also cause serious health and social problems that follow a woman her whole life. The health complications from infibulation can include chronic and severe pain, infection, prolonged and difficult labor and difficulties with menstruation. Psychologically, cutting can cause tension between couples due to painful or difficult sexual relations. Socially, cutting makes it harder for girls to go to school or earn income by making them more likely to marry early. The practice of female genital cutting is disturbing to talk about. It is part of deeply-held religious and cultural beliefs in communities that practice it. But it also is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. Every year, in communities around the world, as many as 3 million girls are at risk of this painful procedure despite its many risks. We must do all we can to encourage the governments in the communities where female genital cutting most often occurs to put a stop to it. You can help. Ask Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to do all she can to urge countries who practice female genital cutting to protect human rights and end this harmful practice.
Ameena, on Sep 05, 2010 11:40:38 AM
Dear friends More news about fgm click on this link http://www.waris-dirie-foundation.com/en/category/news/
Ameena, on Sep 05, 2010 12:11:20 PM
What is FGM? Female Genital Mutilation (often referred to as FGM) is a destructive operation, during which the female genitals are partly or entirely removed or injured with the goals of inhibiting a woman’s sexual feelings. Most often the mutilation is performed before puberty, often on girls between the age of four and eight, but recently it is increasingly performed on nurslings who are only a couple of days, weeks or months old. Where does FGM happen? Female Genital Mutilation happens primarily in Africa, in particular in North-Eastern, Eastern and Western Africa. However, it also takes place in the Middle East, in South-East Asia - and also among immigrants in Europe. According to estimates by the World Health Organisation (WHO) 150 millions women are world-wide affected by it. In Europe, the number of mutilated women or girls and women threatened by FGM amounts up to 500,000. What different types of FGM are there? The WHO differentiates between four different types of Female Genital Mutilation: 1. Excision of the clitoris prepuce (”Sunna-circumcision”) and of the clitoris or parts thereof. 2. Excision of the clitoris prepuce, the clitoris and the inner lips or parts thereof. 3. Type 1 and 2 are the most common types of FGM: eighty percent of the affected women have gone through these procedures. 4. Excision of part of or all of the external genitals (”infibulation”, also referred to as “Pharaonic Circumcision”). Afterwards the remaining parts of the outer lips are sewn together leaving a small hole for urine and menstrual flow. 5. The scar need to be opened before intercourse or giving birth, which causes additional pain. 6. Infibulation is mainly spread in the Horn of Africa and its neighbouring areas - in Somalia, Djibouti and Eritrea, as well as in the northern part of Sudan and in the southern part of Egypt. It is the most severe form of FGM and affects 15 percent of the women. 7. Pricking, piercing, cutting or stretching of the clitoris or the labia, also burning or scarring the genitals as well as ripping of the vaginal opening or the introduction of corrosive substances or herbs into the vagina in order to tighten it. Plus: any other procedure, which injures or circumcises the female genitalia. Who performs FGM? FGM is usually performed by professional circumcisers, women who are enjoying a high reputation in their societies. It is also performed by traditional midwives and occasionally by healers, barbers or nurses or doctors trained in Western medicine. The procedure is usually performed without anaesthetic and under catastrophic hygienic circumstances. Knives, scissors, razor blades or pieces of broken glass are used as instruments among others.
Ameena, on Sep 05, 2010 12:14:24 PM
Another Website link (have a look) http://orchidproject.org/
Ameena, on Sep 10, 2010 11:10:01 AM
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