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8th September 2016
I had the misfortune of visiting a public toilet this afternoon. It was hot, noisy, smelly and suffocating. While I waited I saw a picture of an African girl on the wall and a message:
“You’ve lost your home, You’ve lost your family, Now you’ve got your period.”
I was put right back in my humble and blessed place in this world as I travelled into a brief reverie that put me in mind of the horrendous and true story Desert Flower – a book written by Waris Dirie who, among other atrocities, had experienced female circumcision when she was a toddler. I have no words for the torture females are put through in salute of culture and tradition and abhor not only that this happens but that this is allowed to happen. Waris went on to become a UN ambassador for the abolition of female genital mutilation.
“She reached inside with her long fingers and fished out a broken razor blade. I saw dried blood on the jagged edge. She spit on it and wiped it on her dress. While she was scrubbing, my world went dark as Mama tied a blindfold over my eyes.
The next thing I felt was my flesh being cut away. I heard the blade sawing back and forth through my skin. The feeling was indescribable. I didn’t move, telling myself the more I did, the longer the torture would take. Unfortunately, my legs began to quiver and shake uncontrollably of their own accord, and I prayed, Please, God, let it be over quickly. Soon it was, because I passed out.
When I woke up, my blindfold was off and I saw the gypsy woman had piled a stack of thorns from an acacia tree next to her. She used these to puncture holes in my skin, then poked a strong white thread through the holes to sew me up. My legs were completely numb, but the pain between them was so intense that I wished I would die.
My memory ends at that instant, until I opened my eyes and the woman was gone. My legs had been tied together with strips of cloth binding me from my ankles to my hips so I couldn’t move. I turned my head toward the rock; it was drenched with blood as if an animal had been slaughtered there. Pieces of my flesh lay on top, drying in the sun.”
Waris Dirie Desert Flower
She later recounts “The tiny hole the circumciser had left me only permitted urine to escape one drop at a time. It took me about ten minutes to urinate. My periods were a nightmare always. I couldn’t function for several days each month; I simply went to bed and wanted to die so the suffering would stop.”
Yes, I could give £3 to ActionAid for sanitary towels, but instead I give £22.50 a month to support what is now my fifth sister on a twelve-month development course through Women for Women International. During the twelve months my sisters learn job skills, business training along with a marketable job skill, knowledge of their rights in relation to things like voting, domestic abuse, custody, divorce and access to land. They receive practical knowledge of nutrition and health and information on support networks and safety nets. They become equipped to earn money, regain their confidence and actively participate in their communities.
In this way I help empower the women in those countries to build their own skills and confidence to do in their countries and communities what we can’t do from afar.
This blog is to you Georgie Manners, who through your amazing efforts with She is the Light, opened my eyes, ears and heart to women’s tenacity, resilience, strength and spirit the world over. You were ahead of the pack and I send you love and peace. ♥♥