I first heard of FGM when I was watching Half the Sky. FGM or Female Gentile Mutilation is an ugly, not very known, reality. Popular in many parts of Africa it's a practice that dates back generations. And for many, it's a practice centered on old wives tales.
I'm not going to describe what happens, because to be honest, I'm not even sure I can. But I want to tell you my story in facing this horrible tragedy.
We were in hot East Africa and I was sitting in a room with three other women. They begin to describe their work with their girl's running program. We talked about how the girls managed to get proper nutrition, what their school schedule looked like, how their parents felt about them participating in a running group, and what they considered to be some of their biggest challenges.
It seems that every month there comes a time in a woman's life when things just aren't so pretty. Nodding in agreement we understood, but you see that was just it—we didn't understand at all. In fact, we had NO idea. For when girls hit puberty they are often subjected to FGM. Even though many countries have outlawed this practice it still happens, and because in many places it's illegal it happens in unsupervised, unclean places. But when a woman has undergone FGM she doesn't just experience her monthly time like everyone else. She goes through a pain so strong it rivals childbirth...and this happens every. single. month. *jaw drop*
So these young girls already facing a lack of food, clean water, and proper shelter, now face a pain so unbearable most of us would be upside down in pain pills after minute one. As they go on to describe what happens to these girls my mind goes wild. I completely understand these women's concern and I'm even more proud when she tells me how she's stood up for these women. She's fought for their safety by going to their parents, telling them the real truth of what they are doing to their daughters, and even offering them education.
A few days later I found myself in new whirlwind of a new country. This time I was in the thick of it. I was no longer in a place that considered this illegal, but in fact, 90% of women had undergone FGM, and all from the push of their own mothers. But that's where Dr. Edna comes in. I got the privilege to meet Edna and hear about her fight in FGM. She has a hospital in the city where she trains and sends out midwives. These midwives not only help with delivery but they help with educating locals on the reality of FGM.
I realize I'm not in a position to train midwives or stand up to mothers, but I am in a position to educate you. I can tell the stories of the women I've met and I can give you options to help.
1. Donate to Dr. Edna's hospital directly: https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/EAHF/
2. Donate to Global Aid Network. GAiN works in several countries around the world that help combat not just FGM but also in helping provide washable famine pads to women and girls. I've actually gotten the privelage to help work on this campaign and love watching it in action! Read more here: http://www.gainusa.org/engage-luopads/
2. Share stories like the one above and educate yourself. Here are some articles from The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/society/female-genital-mutilation