Batula is a traditional birth attendant and has been working for the past 25 years. Because of her reputation and medical skills, many families take girls to her and ask let her to carry out Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) on them. FGM is a deep-rooted cultural practice in Somalia with virtually every Somali girl and woman (98 per cent) having undergone it.
“When a girl was brought to me for circumcision, I would start preparing a mixture of charcoal and myrrh to stop the bleeding. I would tie one of her legs to a person and the other leg to another person. A third person would sit behind her and hold onto her back, while I would be seated right in front of her.
To stop her from crying and to hold back her screams, her family would start beating up drums to make her yelling disappear into the air.
Fathers believed their daughters won’t be married if they’re not cut. Mothers and grandmothers were the ones who brought the girls to me, so that they can check the virginity of their daughters.
In fact I did it myself to my eldest daughter. I used to inspect her every time she comes from school or from outside. If it wasn’t sewn, then I would know a man had an affair with her.
I believed that FGM was a big part of culture and tradition and that no man should marry a girl who did not go through FGM. Now I know what I did was wrong. I can confirm that there is nothing good in it.
As a mother, it really pains me to see women suffering because of my past mistakes of doing FGM. I will make sure that none of my granddaughters will go through such pain ever again. I sincerely repent to ALLAH and ask for His forgiveness for making the girls go through that hell.
It’s bad in every respect. It must stop!”
In Somalia, UNICEF, supported by partners, has been working with communities to help them prevent gender-based violence and respond to victims’ needs. One such project was the Community Care Programme in Mogadishu.
For 15 weeks, members of selected communities – led by trained community members – came together to build awareness and consciousness about human rights, fairness, tolerance and justice. Through dialogue and discussion, they were empowered to come up with solutions to the problems of violence against women and girls. UNICEF and partners then helped them translate these solutions into concrete action.
Find out more about the different types of violence against children and how to stop it.
Batula Sid Barakow, a former FGM practitioner is now activist against FGM