Woto Womacho, who does not know her exact age, is a powerful woman in the region and has had an important role in this attitude change.
”My grandmother was a respected circumciser. She taught me what she knew and at an early age, I was making my living cutting the girls of the nearby villages. Everyone was familiar with my skills,” says Woto.
During the summer months, a traditional time to carry out the procedure, Woto could remove the labia and clitoris of 10 girls with a razor blade during a single day. The razor blade was usually just swiped clean.
“I was cut when I was 4. I cut my own girls at that age too, all four of them. They cried and screamed, but I was strong. No man wanted to marry a girl who had not been cut. In our eyes, girls like that were dirty,” she explains.
She herself suffered from pain at intercourse and protracted deliveries but did not understand their connection to FGM.
Once the Plan International community discussions started, her neighbors persuaded Woto to come along. At the meetings, she learned about the consequences of FGM: pain, infections, childbirth complications, and spreading of HIV through the razor blade.
“I began to understand I was being paid and respected for something that was against the law of God. This was a painful realization. I lost everything that had earned me respect. The reasons for which I cut girls were superstition. These beliefs are sustained by men who want to control women’s sexuality,” says Woto.
The only option she had was to quit her profession. Now, when parents ask Woto to cut their daughters, she tells them about the dangers of FGM.
“There is no other circumciser in our village, so if the parents want to perform FGM, they have to take their girls far away to another village. I live a poor life now. I used to be able to eat meat and butter before but can no longer afford them. But now I am at peace with myself and with God.”