Tostan has seen over 9500 villages declare their intention to end FGC so far Naima tells her story about why this is important
By the end of this year, Tostan will have seen 160 villages declare their intention to end FGC: this may seem small, but the impact is enormous. 9500 have made declarations over the lifetime of the organization. Here Naima tells her story about why this is important.
FGC is a harmful practice that has impacted an estimated 200 million girls and women around the globe. It continues to affect at least 3 million girls in Africa each year.
FGC carries many immediate and long-term risks to health, including infections, problems with urinating and menstruation, or even death. In many communities worldwide it is a deeply rooted social norm with tangible impact: a girl who is not cut may escape the health risks of FGC but is often ostracized by her community and deemed undesirable for marriage. For many women in communities that practice FGC, marriage is the only way to support themselves.
The human rights movement to end FGC in West Africa is building momentum and is rapidly approaching critical mass thanks to brave leaders taking a stand to protect their young girls.
This year’s declarations are encouraging, but there is still so much to be done to amplify human rights awareness across communities and encourage more villages to abandon FGC. Tostan is working to help do just that. Here, a powerful activist, Naima, tells her story.
T: Would you mind telling us about where your story begins, Naima?
N: “I was born in Nairobi, Kenya. My father is from the Oromo tribe and my mother is Ajuran. My lineage is split between Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya. In our culture, they say, there are three sorrows in a woman’s life — the day of circumcision, the wedding night, and the day she gives birth — and I have experienced all three. When I was nine, my mother arranged for my cutting. I still remember vividly that day, when I vowed to fight so that the dreams of other girl children will not be broken.”
N: Could you tell us a little more about why you decided to become an activist?
“As a survivor of FGC myself, I am determined to promote change. If I can stop even just one girl from being cut, then I have achieved my goal. In my role as an activist now, I collaborate with local communities to work towards a future where women and girls can take charge of their own bodies and their own futures.”
N: Why do you believe so deeply in the Tostan approach to amplifying human rights awareness and empowering communities to end their practice of FGC?
“I believe in the power of change being community-led and dignity-centered, such as the approach used by Tostan. “By using a human rights-based approach, Tostan puts emphasis on respecting and including everyone in the community, engaging not only women and girls but also men, elders, and religious leaders. One area I appreciate about the Tostan approach are the community-wide discussions they spark around social change, self-empowerment, and self-reliance. Change comes from learning to listen to the community and engaging people in asking themselves some hard questions.”
T: How does this differ from the typical activist approach to FGC?
N: “In the global activism movement to end FGC, it is too often neglected that the practice is intertwined so deeply with marriage. When we don’t take into account aspects of people’s lives such as religion, tradition, and the part they play in the resulting harmful practices, you cannot work towards positive change.
Tostan’s community-led collaborative approach is all-inclusive. They educate the youth, women, men, elders and religious leaders about human rights, health, sanitation, conflict resolution, economic empowerment, and parenting in discussions led by facilitators that are from their very own communities.”