Henrietta Ekwueme: They Chopped Off A Piece Of Us In The Name Of Their Tradition


Photo by Mehmet Turgut Kirkgoz on Unsplash


My mother said it was ‘tradition’

It wasn’t the words she said that got me riled; no, it was her body language when she said it. The look of staunch conviction, borne out of decades of resigned acceptance of things that could not be changed, daring me to disagree.

It didn’t matter that after years of being married, I still could not enjoy sex, or that it had become a very private source of friction and despair in my home. Of course, I couldn’t have that part of the conversation with her.

I stared at her, not at all shocked at her stance on the matter of female genital mutilation. Most women of her generation stand by this tradition anyway, but I find that I am deeply troubled and increasingly upset at her for not growing out of such ancient beliefs after all these years.

Why, for the love of all that is sacred, would a group of people just decide it was a good idea to chop off a piece of flesh from a girl child – a very strategically placed piece of flesh at that.

So, here I am, in my early thirties and married but I have never experienced the big ‘O’. In fact, these days, I barely feel anything at all and it has made the act even less appealing to me. The fallout of this lack of interest is the issue of infidelity that I’m currently dealing with in my home…sigh. A story for another day.

On the off days when I feel like throwing a pity party about all of these, I remind myself of the story of the beautiful, bright girl in the movie; ‘Like Cotton Twines’, on Netflix. As much as it is a really sad and tragic story, it has the power to help me perk up, knowing things could have been worse, and that I don’t have it quite that bad.

So, where do we go from here?

Recent statistics from UNICEF shows that even now, one out of three African girls aged 15 to 19 have been cut.  In recent years, though, there has been a slight decline in the rate of FGM generally, Hallelujah! This is due to massive campaigns against its practice by international bodies like the WHO and UNICEF.

However, countries like Mali and Sierra Leone have not made much progress in this regard. Guess why? Because most of the women in those countries still support the practice. Can you believe that?!

Well, right now, I am a fierce lioness where my 3-year-old daughter is concerned. The one thing I am sure of is that no one will try this barbaric practice on her; not while I yet draw breath.

I’d like to see someone come at me with even a whisper of the thought of it. That said, I believe that with more awareness about the many dangers and health problems associated with female genital mutilation, hopefully, more people will come to take my stance on this matter.



About The Writer

My name is Henrietta Ekwueme but my friends and family call me Harriet. I am a Business Analyst by day and a visual artist and closet writer by night. I live and work in Lagos, Nigeria.

Instagram: @Dis.harriet_sef

LinkedIn: Harriet Ekwueme


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