Urgent Evoke

A crash course in changing the world.

Abandoning Female Genital Cutting/Mutilation in the Afar Region of Ethiopia - 08
April 2010
A smile formed on Dohra Al
i’s face when she recalled what her eldest
daughter asked her a couple of years ago. “Mother, is there a place in
this world where FGM is not practised where I could go to?” At the time,
the question came as an affront to Dohra, who was herself one of the
women in the community who did the cutting. Thinking back, Dohra says
the words of her daughter were prophetic. A campaign to abandon female
genital mutilation/cutting was begun in the region right about that time
– in the year 2000. The campaign was mainly spearheaded by religious
leaders, who worked tirelessly to inculcate an understanding among their
more conservative counterparts, clan leaders and the community at large
that the practice is not supported by Islam. This came as news to many,
who had grown up with the idea that it was a religious requirement.

This story was at the top of the womenwatch news feed. It is amazing that Dora Ali was able to turn around and go from being an active proponent of FGM to working in her community to irradicate it as a cultural practice. Such a change takes real courage.

Because the religious leaders in the region are
spearheading the campaign there is real hope the practice can be wiped out.

I read Waris Diries books years ago.

She grew up in Somalia and ran away before a forced marriage, eventually she became a top model and an ambassador against FGM. It was very hard for her to go against her culture and family to highlight FGM and negative aspects of womens lives in Somalia. She showed great courage because she saw the need.

After reading her books I spoke with people to try to understand why it happened and the answer was that women saw it as a way of being clean and good and marriageable.
The religious leaders are now untying these associations with FGM and insisting that it is unislamic.

A news item on the The Waris Dirie foundation site it says that religious leaders in Mauritania are also banning the practice.

The film about Waris Diries 'Desert Flower' is again highlighting the issue in Europe and as a result of it Germany is tightening its laws against the practice.

If I could find out anything I would like to know whar the chain of events were that led to the religious leaders spearheading these campaigns. I'd like to know how such things begin, what the paths are that lead to change.

Waris Dirie certainly made one.

Views: 54

Comment by Samiran Roy on April 9, 2010 at 1:06pm
PJE, I don't understand, why is FGM practiced?
Comment by PJE on April 9, 2010 at 1:35pm
Hello Samiran, thanks for reading.

I don't really understand either especially if you are asking a historical question but I'll try to find out.

When I was asking about it years ago, it seemed that many women I spoke to from cultures where it was practiced women felt it was a good thing, because it was part of their culture and religion and they thought it made women better, cleaner, good, good wives and so on.

These positive things: being clean, being good, being religious etc over the years had become linked with having been cut. So women who hadn't been cut weren't really seen to be good etc.

I think it is a mechanism of thinking ... like a smoker links relaxing with smoking so much that he can't really accept he is relaxed unless he is smoking. That link needs to be understood and broken otherwise it is very difficult to change.

Thank you for making me look up the historical side.
Comment by PJE on April 9, 2010 at 1:53pm
Thank you MAK me too! Samiran if you are still here I found this from http://www.mtholyoke.edu/~ehtoddch/politics/historyfgm.html
The history of female circ**cision, also known as female genital mutilation (FGM), has been traced back as far as the 2nd century BC, when a geographer, Agatharchides of Cnidus, wrote about female circ**cision as it occurred among tribes residing on the western coast of the Red Sea (now modern-day Egypt). Based on current geographic locations of FGM, the practices seems to have originated in Egypt and has spread south and west.

Some believe that female circ**cision was rooted in the Pharaonic belief in the bisexuality of the gods. According to this belief, mortals reflected this trait of the gods; every individual possessed both a male and a female soul. The feminine soul of the man was located in the prepuce of the penis; the masculine soul of the woman was located in the clitoris. For healthy gender development, the female soul had to be excised from the man and the male soul from the woman. Circ**cision was thus essential for boys to become men and girls to become women.
Prior to the rise of Islam, Egyptians once raided territories to the south for slaves, and Sudanic slaves were exported to areas along the Persian Gulf. Reports from the 15th and 16th centuries suggest that female slaves were sold at a higher price if they were ''sewn up" in a way that made them unable to give birth. After the region converted to Islam, this practice was no longer possible because Islam prohibits Muslims from enslaving others of their own religious beliefs.
Comment by Samiran Roy on April 9, 2010 at 2:10pm
Thank you PJE, now I think I understand. It is not very different from Sati, which is still practiced in remote places in my country, only a little less extreme. These habits are formed over the generations, and questioning them needs a lot of courage, it is really heartwarming to read the story of Dohra Ali and Waris Dirie.
Comment by PJE on April 9, 2010 at 2:14pm
Thank you Samiran, I understand a bit more too thanks to you.
Comment by Richard Smyth on April 9, 2010 at 2:21pm
Thanks for the *way* you posted this entry with highlighted words attracting my eye to the key ideas of your blog. And the links. And the encouraging story about progress. Keep up the good work!
Comment by Ternura Rojas on April 9, 2010 at 2:48pm
Really nice post PJE, just a tip: in many islamic countries in Africa this practice is still part of the culture, actually there is a tale about Muhammad where he asks women "to cut not so deeply" their daughter's genitals. So, they prohibited slavery but they kept the FGM. Currently, in many FGM countries, this folklore is also practiced by christians (including roman catholics). I think these practices have prevaled because they constitute an ideal way to undermine the soul of a person. And I am not referring to men tyrannizing women, I say women tyrannizing women.
Comment by Samiran Roy on April 9, 2010 at 3:32pm
"Humans tyrannizing themselves"

Ancient dehumanizing belief systems based on culture and religion, passed on from generation to generation, which become so deeply rooted in society, they become as natural as eating and drinking.
Here is another example.
Comment by PJE on April 9, 2010 at 5:06pm
Hello Richard, thank you, I liked this way of posting too when I saw how Elastika used it! She was kind enough to let me copy her. I like it because even on difficult issues highlighting the positive makes it possible to write/read without crying!
Ternura Rojas thank you for the tip, I can see I need to read more widely on the subject. I do think it is interesting how men working for womens issues in the community has such power for change. Do you think writing to the Pope could work in the Roman Catholic areas? I'll try it. Hey I could go down and see him...
Samiran this is so true:
Ancient dehumanizing belief systems based on culture and religion, passed on from generation to generation, which become so deeply rooted in society, they become as natural as eating and drinking.
I am trying to change my own ones too, just identifying them is soooo difficult.
Comment by Ternura Rojas on April 10, 2010 at 4:56pm
@PJE you are welcome! this subject is really important for me. I think you could write the Vatican Office, but at the moment they must be reaaally busy burning files from the cases of their own priests abusing children in the western world ;-). Good luck though, T


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