“All three of her daughters are circumcised” my mother gossiped while sipping her chai. I did not know what to make of what she had just told me, so I calmly asked, “what about you?” She nodded her head matter-of-factly, conveying the commonality of female circumcision in rural Sudanese villages. I sat there in silence, yearning to learn more about a part of my culture that I did not even know existed. To soothe my curiosity I poured through countless articles and blogs dealing with female circumcision. The most compelling instance of my prolonged Google search was a meekly viewed YouTube clip by British filmmaker Taghreed El Sanhouri. In the clip, a young Sudanese girl relives the emotions she felt during her own circumcision during a round-table discussion with other women who have also faced similar hardships. The girl details the coercion she faced by the woman performing the circumcision and recalls the negligence of a neighbor that knew her fate.
Female circumcision is a great symbol of Sudanese culture, and is believed to make a woman pure and clean. Often times, this ritual is performed between infancy and age 15, typically by an inexperienced woman in the village. The circumcision is done in a hasty manner and without much proper sterilization. Because of this aspect of female circumcision, it often leads to further health complications rather than purity. Circumcised women face a greater risk of infection, infertility, and childbirth complications, as well. Despite these dangers, many women still undergo circumcision, including many of the women in my own family. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that 101 million girls in Africa have undergone circumcision. Female circumcision is indeed an issue that must be addressed within Sudanese society promptly. To remedy this issue, we must not focus on altering the culture of the society, but rather utilize education to garner awareness about the dangers of amateur circumcision. The young girls of Sudan must be educated openly about their bodies and health. Female health is often a topic that is uncomfortable amongst society and this is where the change must occur. By developing openness about female health, women will become informed and empowered to choose their own fate. The women of my family—my mother, cousins, and aunts— along with the 101 million other African girls are the faces of female circumcision and the power that will educate other women about the dangers of the practice.
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