"It was a family tradition, one day my mother gave me the tool, she put it on my head and said I had to keep it there for 7 days”.
It was an initiation ceremony. That's how Rahel, a former Tanzanian exciser, started practicing female genital mutilation (FGM).
Then she met an association, our partner in Tanzania, and discovered all the negative consequences of this practice on the physical and psychological health of girls and women.
Now Rahel is fighting to put an end to this tradition, also travelling throughout Europe to meet migrant communities from countries where FGM is still performed.
"I would like to tell all communities performing female genital mutilation to stop because it has many negative effects”.
Due to her decision to stop this practice, Rahel has lost the respect of those people of her community who still believe in the importance of FGM but has not lost heart, and the very fact that she has become an activist is changing many people's minds.
"There is a lot of work to be done, especially with parents who are the ones who take their daughters to the exciser: they need to be informed about the negative consequences of these practices, unknown to most of the population.
I decided to stop doing it when I understood all its consequences and I was shocked to learn that even infections - including sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea - are passed on from one girl to another because the same tool is used on many girls.
It is not a coincidence that from the very first training sessions Rahel started using a different tool for each girl – to avoid at least the transmission of diseases – before she decided to stop practicing FGM altogether.
"Another problem is that in a central region of Tanzania there is an infection that girls easily catch and that many believe can be cured by mutilating them.
It is hard to explain that this is a bacterial infection like many others, and it can be dealt with by observing simple hygiene rules and going to a hospital for treatment.
The girls who catch this infection should not be taken to an exciser, but to a doctor”.
In Europe we have laws prohibiting all kinds of FGMs. But many girls and women from countries where these practices are still performed might be submitted to them when they return for their holidays or to visit their families.
Find out what we do to make sure that one day no girl will ever have to undergo this practice again.
To help every woman to fight against any form of violence, click here.