Reene Bergstrom was mutilated when she was three years old in an American Christian family. To Asha Ismail with five in Kenya. Both are activists against female genital mutilation (FGM) and warn that “it is a global problem that is not limited to one continent or one color.My cut was made because he was touching me, I don’t know if at that age it can be called masturbation, but my mother was worried and she took me to a doctor who practiced his religion with a scalpel, says the American doctor.
In their religion, masturbation was a sin and it took away my clitoris, Reene continues in a conversation with the FGM survivor and co-founder of the Save a Girl Save a Generation organization, Asha Ismail, on the occasion of the celebration, this 6 February, the International Day of Zero Tolerance with Female Genital Mutilation. It is estimated that more than 200 million women and girls have been mutilated in the world, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The WHO defines FGM as all procedures that, intentionally and for reasons, not doctors alter or injure the female genital organs.It is carried out to girls between 0 and 14 years old and, occasionally, to adult women. According to the UN, it is concentrated in about 30 countries in Africa and the Middle East, and South Asia and persists in migrant populations living in Western Europe, North America, Australia, and New Zealand.
BREAK THE SILENCE
With their testimonies, they want to help break the silence about this form of human rights violation, and ask that African women or a continent not be stigmatized, because it is a global problem.Reene recalls that, after the cut, her mother acknowledged that it was a mistake and that she should never talk about it. Later, I was confused when I found out what had happened, which prevented her from talking about it with her environment. Neither did she when she got pregnant because, she explains, I didn’t know it was going to be a problem. If I hadn’t been with a very caring doctor, I could have died, like many other women, says Reene, who had to undergo an extensive episiotomy that took months to heal.
And it is that FGM has serious consequences for sexual and reproductive health, such as acute pain, bleeding, infections, injury to organs and anatomical structures in the area, fractures, incontinence, anemia, or psychological disorders. Also, it can cause complications during childbirth such as cesarean sections, bleeding, tears, or episiotomies. When Reene tried to break the silence in front of some coworkers, they told him not to share it again or it would ruin his career. That silenced me again, he laments. Among the circumstances surrounding the silence of the victims is the will to protect their families, shame, stigmatization, and not knowing who is going to be compassionate and who is going to judge you, both activists agree. That is why they send a message of encouragement and accompaniment to all women who want to break their silence.We are ready to listen to them.