Leyla woke up one morning to see caterers cooking in her parent’s home. Her aunties and uncles were around. Everybody seemed in a happy mood but Leyla. She didn’t know what was happening. It wasn’t her birthday or her sister’s and her father wasn’t around, so, she was confused at the party going on in the house.
Suddenly, she heard her sister’s scream at the other side of the house and that was when she knew something horrible was happening. It was soon her turn and even though she tried to avoid it by running around the house, she could only do so much for a 7-year old.
Leyla experienced female genital mutilation at 7 and many years after, the trauma still lives with her. Female Genital Mutilation is the practice of partially or totally removing the external genitalia of the girl-child for non-medical reasons.
When she was cut, she didn’t really understand what had happened to her until she had her baby. Leyla’s pregnancy was hard, birthing her baby was difficult but the most traumatic was when she was being examined vaginally as she always passed out.
When her doctor asked to check if she had gone through FGM, Leyla told her she did but didn’t have any problem urinating, having sex or other problems associated with FGM. The doctor told her FGM had an effect on her body as it was the reason she kept passing out whenever she was being checked. According to her, her body was having flashbacks.
“…so anytime a doctor came at me with any metal instruments, I would go back being that child and to me, that made so much sense. The trauma constantly kept coming back,” Leyla said, and that informed her decision to protect her daughter.
“It affects me everyday because I work in the field as a therapist and women tell me their stories everyday, so I am in it every single day. It affects me to a point where I do something good with the anger. I’m constantly still angry because what shocks me till now is that we are not as outraged as we should be. The reason why people are not outraged by FGM the way we should be is because the idea of controlling women’s bodies and sexuality is the norm globally. So, the way it affects me is that, that needs to change,” Leyla told BBC Africa.
She noted that her anger is not towards the community that practices it but the system that should be protecting children from it.
Watch her speak here
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