Mary, 13, lives in Mali.
Where she comes from, women and girls face a number of threats to their health and survival. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a traditional practice that involves the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, and the effects are severe, sometimes life-threatening.
In Mary’s country, FGM usually takes place on girls under 5. However, it is becoming increasingly common for it to be carried out on even younger girls with the belief that they feel less pain – but the younger the child is, the higher the actual risk.
In an effort to eliminate FGM in Mali, Plan International is delivering education and awareness sessions about the practice in Mary’s community, and 159 others like it. Now Mary’s community leaders have agreed to abolish the practice in her village, meaning Mary’s younger sisters and girls like them will not be subjected to this violation of girls’ rights.
Speaking to Plan, Mary bravely revealed her own story regarding FGM, and why she’s glad to witness such a change in her community.
I still remember the day I was cut, and I even remember the lady who did it. She is friends with my mother. She came to my house with my grandmother, and pulled me to the toilet.
I was terrified. I was screaming. I was only 7 years old, and I was so scared. I kicked and cried and tried to run, but I was not strong enough. That’s when they laid me down on the ground and cut me.
They held me down, and the blood poured across the ground. There was so much blood and I begged for them to let me go.
I told them: “You’re going to kill me! Why do you want to kill me?”
I called for my mother to come and rescue me, and save me from the cutter, but she did not come. A few minutes later, I was taken back to my home. I was still in pain, and continued to cry and weep. I felt like I was dying because I was in so much pain.
Not long after, I had my first period, and when I saw the blood I thought I was dying again. It reminded me of when I was cut. My periods continue to be extremely painful because I was cut, and I’ve also had serious problems urinating and I’ve suffered numerous infections.
In the future I will be married and have children, and I expect I will have problems then, too. I know other girls experience problems like this.
Today, my village leader has signed an agreement to end FGM in the community – thanks to Plan’s work here. Plan has been coming to our village and teaching us all about the health problems FGM causes and now we no longer want to be doing it.
It means the problems here will be avoided for other girls, so I am really happy. It won’t be the same for other girls. I have two younger sisters and I am so happy they will not be cut. FGM will be an old story here now.