Sisterhood Agenda

How I Defy the Tradition of Cut (Female Genital Mutilation)

British actress Zawe Ashton and Agnes Pareyio, who underwent female genital mutilation as a girl in Kenya, are two of the activists featured in "Stop Cutting Our Girls," a documentary opposing the practice

Female genital mutilation is an international public health crisis.

Over 30 years ago, my sister and I had just come from school when we found villagers in our homestead celebrating.  On enquiry, my mother said that my sister and I were to undergo the emuratare-circumcision-ritual that would make us women.

In our tradition, women or men who refused to face the cut were regarded as cowards and were a disgrace to the family and the entire village.  It is like a curse in the Maasai culture, who are known for their courage and bravery, to be the ridicule of the entire village.  I wanted to show everyone that I was no coward.

The circumciser approached me menacingly waving the blade in my ace as if to terrify me, but I just watched, ready to be cut.  I had my clitoris, the labia majora and labia minora gorged out with the sharp blade while I watched.  The circusmciser then inserted two fingers into the fresh wound to make sure that the work was complete and that nothing was left.

I got married off soon after the circumcision ceremony to a man who was my father’s age.  This is something that I would not want my daughter or any other girl in Maasailand or anywhere else in the world to undergo.

It gives me great pride to rescue a girl and help mold her life and future for a better tomorrow by giving her an education that makes her self-confident, independent and empowers her to make wise decisions.  Nothing gives me better satisfaction.

It is taboo for me to speak of sex and the tradition.  Such barbaric traditions no longer fit into the world we are living in today.

Maasai women and girls should wake up and fight this inhumane practice that is harmful to their health and bodies.  They should be taught that in today’s fast-paced world, education is the key to a better and more fulfilling life and not the cut.

[Originally published in Sisterhood Agenda Magazine]

Pareiyo was the first Maasai women to be elected Deputy Mayor of her locality. Pareiyo has also analyzed the patriarchal social effects of  Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), including the ways that the procedure is used to take girls out of education and other means of economic and social independence.

Pareiyo has a safe house for young girls who are trying to escape female genital mutilation.  She has all of the girls protected and going to school. She works with each girl’s family so they can also understand the consequences of FGM.  Pareiyo was named United Nations in Kenya Person of the Year in 2005, for her work achieving gender equality and empowerment of women.

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