I am writing about an article titled “Sabiny Blame Upsurge of FGM/C on unfulfilled promises in New Vision on Tuesday 29th January 2019 by Betty Amamukirori. I feel disappointed by the writer and the community respondent that claims female genital cutting is a reaction to unfulfilled promises! I would have expected stronger expression of the different aspects of protection, respect, fulfilment of the rights of the women arising from the campaign against the practice in the messaging as a gesture of positive journalism to the constitutional rights of women in Uganda.
Testimonies of the girls and women who have undergone and survived the cutting is full of expression of agony with less options because of the culturally entrenched and cherished practice, surrounded with selfish control, power, pseudo sense of belonging to the culturally defined women’s class and the community at large. The tales of the women coupled with the feeling of disgust, indignity, impurity, resentment, thirst for recognition and the transition to womanhood brings tears to the eyes of many. Coming from Bugwere in Budaka District it sounds like fitting a square peg in a round hole never a wish for any free girl or women a rights respecting world!
One woman said with tears in her eyes remembering the three most painful moments after FGM/C were the cutting, the wedding night and when giving birth which remain an absolute nightmare. Another added "I now understood why my mother and grandmother slept alone many times: they couldn't hold the pain of conjugal rights". They recite fistula, stigma, discrimination, difficulties with giving birth, denial of property, hopelessness, and self-blame/pity as the most common effects girls and women face. I am very sure no girl or woman can give in herself to counter failure of any kind of the “promises” by the FGM apologists. These can’t be equated to the pain, the foregone health, joy, happiness and the entirety of motherhood. The writer should reach out to the primary duty bearers and ask them to fulfil any of their unfulfilled promises as accountability to the citizenry. There is a hidden revenge against the young women and other women not cut that must be explained to the public. Equally, revenge is manifesting in the article against the stakeholders working to harmonise co-existence of men and women as defined in the constitution and the Act of parliament against FGM. Development is a right that the community must demand without resorting to FGM to show their anger.
It is time to redeem girls and women's dignity by confronting the different forms of visible, invisible and hidden power that are perpetrating harmful traditional practices. Strongly hidden power of culture holds the seemingly “good intent” promised around this practice. As we support the communities overcome the current upsurge of FGM, government must invest in enforcement of the Prohibition of FGM Act; Ensure the police and related institutions are well resourced to play their roles; collective messaging and denouncing of this practice by the area leaders; reach out to the communities with factual information about the dangers; provide alternative livelihoods especially for the FGM surgeons and rite of passage among other actions. ActionAid Uganda, its partner organisations and the District Local Governments in Sebei sub-region have created awareness on Anti-FGM law, supported alternative models including the management of the Women’s Protection Shelter supported by DFID,funded income generating activities for women and working with the leaders to support the eradication of FGM.
JOIN us in the Campaign against FGM/C! Together we can make a difference by ending impunity on all forms of violence against girls and women.
Harriet Robinah Gimbo- Women Rights Activist