Esraa Bani is an Administrative Assistant in the International Advocacy and U.S. Government Relations departments of Population Action International.
A little four year old lay in bed wrapped in blankets. Her teeth were chattering and her body was warm with fever because she lost too much blood. She laid still in her bed as tears rolled down her face. Days passed by without her sleeping or eating because the pain was too much for her frail body to bear.
Seventeen years later on March 14th, 1984 my mother was recalling that experience as she was cut open once again to give birth. She had so much scar tissue that she couldn’t deliver naturally, she had to get cut AGAIN with a razor. As she passed out from the pain, she heard a baby cry and women cheering and celebrating. The last thing she heard was “it’s a girl!”.
It has been forty-two years and my mother still hasn’t forgotten the day her parents decided to cut her, or perform Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) on her. She almost died giving birth to me because of a tradition that my grandmother was fearful to break. She is not alone. Annually, almost three million girls undergo this procedure because of a variety of reasons but mainly its a ritual of purification. Parents would rather push their little girls to the fringe of life than let go of this sacred ritual. They try to blind little girls to the cruel reality of FGM by having a party and showering them with gold and gifts.
Although my mother’s generation took some strides towards the cessation of the tradition, it is still an enormous issue in Sudan. Approximately ninety percent of females in Northern Sudan have undergone FGM. The most prominent types of FGM in Northern Sudan are Types II and III. Ironically, Sudan was the first country in Africa to outlaw the practice, but no one really enforces that law. Today, Sudan has one of the highest rates of FGM. While in most countries the rates are going down, in Sudan due to the war in Darfur, it seems like it’s actually spreading and being moved to tribes that never used to practice it.
Unlike many parents in northern Sudan, my mother (with the ultimate support of my father) decided to break this old sacred tradition. My mother refused to cut me and my sister. Her strength empowered her sisters to stop the tradition as well. This revolution started with ONE woman who said “enough is enough”, ONE family at a time, from ONE generation to the other. Today, three generations later, here I am advocating to eradicate this practice. I’ve been speaking out against it and have been participating in projects around the world to erradicate FGM once and for all.
I just became a mother a couple of months ago, and, in honor of the International Women’s day I make a pledge today, just like my mother, to never cut my daughter.