The oldest amongst the village elders roared in anger. ‘How dare you stand in front of the highest committee in this village and talk rubbish…how dare you?’ He was shaking visibly as he poured out all kinds of curses and invective on me. I felt so small standing in their midst as they surrounded me like lions circling a prey. I was clearly intimidated, even my father by my side was no comfort to me. He just sat down dejectedly as he watched the proceedings, scared of being ostracized.
One of the women started talking ‘cutting girls is something our people have done for hundreds of years, only when you cut a girl can she remain pure till marriage and still stay faithful to her husband. This girl is a disgrace, she wants to go around sleeping with men’.
Another old woman cut in immediately, ‘this is one girl that wants to go against tradition; she has incited all the other girls with her stupid ideas, she has told them that we’re wicked and do not want the best for them, all her writings at the village square have been against the cutting, we can’t read what she’s been writing, but our daughters have been reading it and they’ve become stubborn, so many have refused to go for the cutting’.
‘What do you have to say about this, young lady?’ the eldest Chief asked. I began to talk, slowly at first, before gathering courage. ‘It is a sin, it is improper, I shouldn’t be made to go through this excruciating pain so I could give sexual pleasure to a man yet my own sexual pleasure is at the mercy of a knife, why should I be allowed to go through such pain just so I can be kept I check, and who or what keeps the boys in check?’
I had hardly finished my long tirade of words, when one of the Chiefs stood and gave me a stinging slap.
‘You are maaaaaaaaaaaaaad….’ He shouted!!! Take this thing out of my presence and do what is right for her.
I was led to meet the other girls. They saw me and fear gripped them. I used to be their source of strength; they read all my articles about Female Genital Mutilation and learnt a great deal about it. They wrote secret letters to me with questions, and I published answers in all my articles. I was their mentor, their leader, their savior, but now I was in chains, every iota of courage fled their skins.
The cutter came out; she had spent the night sharpening the knife on rocks. Then, I was brought forward; my legs were thrown apart, with several other women pinning me to the ground. My clothes were removed and a bucket of ice-cold water was poured on me.
My vaginal opening was about to be reduced by removing my clitoris. The exact source of sexual pleasure was about to be sacrificed on the altar of chastity and purity. The knife came out, glistering, then it came closer, my eyes nearly popping out, I couldn’t shout, I was sweating, I was dying, the knife was coming close, oooooooo……my……goooooooodddddd!!!!!
She only stopped screaming when she stopped breathing. Her last scream was loud and piercing, and then reduced to a whine, then to cold silence. Now, she lay in the clutches of death, sorrow etched on the faces of the other girls around as they shake their heads in pain.
Her lifeless body lay in the mud house with thatch roof surrounded by sweaty older women. The father waited outside, head bowed in anticipation, anxiously waiting for news from the mud house. News, which was guarded jealously by the sweaty women, it was their turf and they were in control.
“Salako”, “Salako”, come inside, something has happened, the oldest among the women climbed out to tell him. “The gods are unquestionable, their actions and decisions are beyond the comprehension of mere men, Salako, you need to be a man, she wasn’t an ordinary child.” She replied him with a pat on his back.
He determined to brave it up, but the sight of his dead daughter broke him down, he sobbed like a baby. “Asake ooooo, why have the gods decided to bring such misfortune on me; death, why have you become a visitor in my house…?”
Then like a rehearsed and planned arrangement, the other girls started to chant ‘My Vagina is for me, not for you’, these words echoed deeply at such early hour, the girls were relentless, thirty of them in uniform of purpose and determination of heart kept on chanting – ‘My Vagina is for me, not for you’.
The noise kept on growing louder and louder, it began to energize and embolden. The girls, now visibly angry, stood up from their kneeling positions, carried the lifeless body shoulder high, a mixture of anger and sorrow, the only emotions in their hearts.
The women couldn’t stop them any longer, they saw deep anger and hatred in the eyes of the girls, thirty naked girls chanting and marching back to the village square was not a movement to be stopped.
The train marched on, with tears in their eyes and pain in their hearts. Then the magic started happening, some older women began to join them. At that point, a mother of one of the girls ran to hug her daughter. Younger girls, who were scheduled to go through the circumcision, next year pulled off their clothes and joined in the march.
They sang and chanted that morning; the village witnessed an unprecedented event.
——————-‘MY VAGINA IS FOR ME, NOT FOR YOU’ was the title of the last article I wrote and published at the Village Square before my death.
Silence is a disaster. We must speak out.
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