What is Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)? Female genital mutilation or ablation involves the partial or total removal of the external sexual organs of women. FGM is a custom that is currently practiced in many countries in Africa and Asia. This brutal practice is to control female sexual desire and what is more, to get the total submission of women to the family and the husband (Fundacion Kirira).
FGM’s Prevalence: According to the World Health Organization, it is estimated that 200 million girls alive today have undergone FGM and there are 3 million girls at risk of undergoing the practice every year, with the majority of girls being cut before 15 years of age (2013).
On May 31, the International Relations Club had the honor of hosting a Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) seminar at IE. The seminar featured Estrella Gimenez the President of Fundacion Kirira, which is an NGO in Spain that helps fight against FGM. In addition to Estrella’s presentation, we also had a MIR student Lula Tensaew tell her touching story about the daily struggles she faces having undergone this practice. Estrella started by sharing the story of how the foundation came about and in a sad tone Estrella said, “One summer in August, I went on a typical safari trip to Kenya and couldn’t help but realize that something was wrong”. The shocking reality was that August was the month of female mutilations in the Tharaka village and all the young girls were being mutilated. When someone in the village asked her why she had not been mutilated, with astonishment, Estrella realized that there was a deep underlying problem. Many girls were dropping out of school to undergo mutilation as early as 12 years of age to prepare them for marriage. Estrella started her NGO in 2002 and 14 years later, thanks to the Kirira Foundation, FGM has been reduced drastically from 90% to less than 5% of FGM cases in the village of Tharaka. Estrella and her team have truly been successful in saving many girls’ lives and they are true heroes.
MIR student Lula Tensaew, shared that when she was a young girl living in Eritrea she was mutilated at 2 years of age. She wanted to shed light on this horrible practice and also believes that by educating, the lives of many girls could be saved. Throughout her life, she has dealt with many health issues due to FGM and emphasized that, “there are many women like me worldwide living with this pain in silence”. We thank Lula for sharing such a personal and deep story. She is truly an admiration.
Written by: Susan Guarda, Rimpal Kumbhani, Nina Volaric