The ablation remains a threat in a world where at least 200 million girls and women have suffered some form of genital mutilation, mainly in 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East. The list grows every year with about three million more women, victims who can be burdened with their physical and psychological development for life.
Although the elimination of this practice is among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (ODS), it is expected that by 2030 the number of annual victims will not stop growing and will reach even 4.5 million. The prevalence of mutilation among girls and women aged 15 and 49 reaches 98 percent in Somalia, 97 percent in Guinea, 93 percent in Djibouti and 87 percent in Egypt, according to the UN.
Girls under 14 years old they represent 44 million of the global total, with the most worrying levels in Mali (73 percent), The Gambia (56 percent), Mauritania (54 percent) and Indonesia (49 percent). Not in vain, it is precisely in the early stages of puberty that this type of practice usually occurs.
Bleeding, cysts, infections and infertility, as well as complications when giving birth, are among the side effects of a practice that in the eyes of many families is still a reason for celebration and pride. In fact, in many cases it is the girls themselves who assume and even claim to go through this trance, a necessary step towards an adult life that usually arrives early.
Genital mutilation leads to forced marriages, premature pregnancies and dropping out of school. It also leads to serious psychological damage such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder or low self-esteem, among other effects, the NGO Ayuda en Acción, which has been working in Kenya since 1985, has warned.
In Kenya, despite a theoretical prohibition, the prevalence of ablation is 21 percent in the case of girls and women between 15 and 49 years of age and 3 percent among children under 14 years of age. However, thanks to the joint work of Ayuda en Acción and the Kirira Foundation, in remote areas of the north such as Tharaka, genital mutilation is virtually eradicated and in others such as Tangulbei and Abakuria, it has fallen dramatically.
Both organizations collaborate with Shelters for young girls who "run away" and awareness campaigns, explained to Europa Press the director of institutional relations of Europa Press, Marta Marañón. The initiatives also include the distribution of anti-ablative kits, a kind of "counter party" with gifts ranging from clothing and backpacks to intimate hygiene products.
Education, an indispensable tool
Education is a powerful tool to turn around a society and a tradition that creeps into the mentality of girls themselves from their early childhood. "The challenge we have is the girls who decide for themselves that they want to be mutilated," says Mary, a teacher who struggles to change the current paradigm by warning that mutilation results in the majority of cases of dropping out. "They say they are already adults to be able to marry", assures the NGO.
For many this movement is late, but also with their story they want to awaken consciences. This is the case of Lucy, who remembers how an older man came to his house and "He promised to take care of her", still a girl. "There was no one with me and no one warned me of the dangers of mutilation, I remember that I suffered a lot," he says, speaking of a turning point that also gave way to marriage.
Marañón affects this ignorance and warns that "girls do not know what they are facing", especially if they go "from the hands of their mothers" and because it has been decided by a clan of elders. Many communities, he adds, "are not even aware that in other areas there may be women who do not undergo ablation."
Mutilation almost costs his life
Joyce, 16, is now "deeply sorry" of a mutilation that almost cost him his life, since it produced a hemorrhage that he overcame with difficulty. "I decided to mutilate myself and that's why I can say that I made a mistake," says this young woman who now feels "guilty" when in class someone speaks against ablation.
With perspective, Joyce has realized that the community is nobody to decide about her life and now she seeks to make others aware so that they do not suffer the same as her. Many families consider saying 'no' to ablation and protect their daughters, with women leading this movement and talking about their own experiences.
It is the victims themselves "who can give the best testimony that education is a path of opportunity," explains Marañón, who admits the difficulty of combating a practice that, for many girls, is "the way to be accepted and integrated" in society.
"I was a girl like them and thanks to the support I received, I avoided being mutilated and I've become a teacher"says Wan, who teaches her students to say" no. "Meanwhile, Miriam, 18, is part of a school club where they talk about the effects of mutilation:" We tell them that they have to encourage to your daughters to study. It is doing a good job because now the cases are minimal. "
Marta Marañón recalls the importance of financing awareness campaigns and work in favor of education, as she admits that these programs are not always 'attractive' for those who see them as "intangible" in terms of results. However, in the long term education is the "best tool to break the inequality".