Today, 25 November is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Day One of the 16 Days of Activism. Today we deliver a powerful story written by Soroptimist Asha Abulrahman, and an equally moving video – both of which paint a very real and alarming picture of the dangers and lifechanging effects of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) on women and girls.
Beginning with ‘My story’, written by Asha W. Abdulrahman – Soroptimist International Kenya, we move to a hard-hitting film produced by Global Media Campaign, with an introduction and conclusion delivered by SI President-Elect Sharon Fisher, who shares the ways in which you can support the Soroptimist Six – women activists on the ground – as part of the SI Road to Equality 2019-2021 President’s Appeal, in the fight to #EndFGM.
“As I turned 6 years old, early in the morning there was a lot of excitement in my grandmother’s house, the girl is going to be cleaned to start her journey towards “Womanhood”. I was also carried away in this excitement; little did I know that day would change my life forever. My mother was the only one sad, she was opposed to the act, the female circumcision, but was overruled by her elder sister and my father. I was given a very cold bath, then taken to this dark room where an elderly lady was waiting, my legs were held apart and the cut was made, I could not cry as my mouth was closed, no medication was applied, legs were tight together, urine was the only cleanser. I was very proud as I emerged from this room two weeks later, in new clothes, gifted by all women, lots of food served to celebrate. Sixty years down, I still feel the effect of this day.
It is estimated that more than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in the countries where the practice is concentrated. Furthermore, there are an estimated 3 million girls at risk of undergoing female genital mutilation every year. The majority of girls are cut before they turn 15 years old. 
The Soroptimist International membership worldwide are advocates of Human Rights as per the ‘Beijing Declaration’. We should champion and call upon our governments to uphold these declarations; raise awareness and involve men, women, and children across the globe. To advocate against FGM it is important to understand the extent of the practice, the different types, and how to effectively address this when conducting the campaign.
EFFECTS OF FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION “THE CUT”
Female sexual health: removal of, or damage to highly sensitive genital tissue, especially the clitoris, may affect sexual sensitivity and lead to sexual problems, decreased sexual desire and pleasure, pain during sex, difficulty during penetration, decreased lubrication during intercourse, reduced or absence of orgasm (anorgasmia). Scar formation, pain and traumatic memories associated with the procedure can also lead to such problems.
Obstetric complications: FGM is associated with an increased risk of Caesarean section, postpartum hemorrhage, recourse to episiotomy, difficult labour, obstetric tears/lacerations, instrumental delivery, prolonged labour, and extended maternal hospital stay.
Perinatal risks: obstetric complications can result in a higher incidence of infant resuscitation at delivery and intrapartum stillbirth and neonatal death.
Psychological consequences: of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorders and depression.
Shock: can be caused by pain, infection and/or haemorrhage.
Genital tissue swelling: due to inflammatory response or local infection.
Infections: may spread after the use of contaminated instruments (e.g. use of the same instruments in multiple genital mutilation operations), and during the healing period.
Watch Film SI Road to Equality and the Global Media Campaign (Warning: Some viewers may find some of the content upsetting).
CAMPAIGNS TO END FGM
Campaigns involve raising awareness to communities targeting mainly men, older women, religious leaders, and community elders, and addressing girls and boys.
Alternative Rites of Passage (ARP) is an alternative to female initiation into womanhood, without female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/FGC), these alternative rites are becoming increasingly popular campaigns against FGM. In these ceremonies and instructions that precede them, girls’ human rights (mainly to life, health, education, protection) and cultural rights (manifested in teachings and ritual elements that aim to mimic the cultural traditions of the community concerned) are intertwined in one social space.
The SI Road to Equality 2019-2021 and Global Media Campaign are working together to support six young inspirational activists as they work to #ENDFGM.
 UNICEF data