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The Volume Against FGM is Rising

People are speaking out against Female Genital Mutilation in Egypt.

Egypt has the world’s third-highest rate of female circumcision, despite the practice having been illegal for almost a decade. However, it might be even more prevalent were it not for a cast of committed voices speaking out. With International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation in February, Plan International USA is sharing their stories.

In Egypt, 91% of girls and women have been circumcised.

Noha is a volunteer who runs awareness sessions on FGM at her local community development center in Tamouh, a rural village in the Giza governorate. FGM is a lingering problem in Egypt, where 91 percent of girls and women have been circumcised in the country, despite the change in the law.

Plan's awareness centers are empowering girls to talk about the issues which affect them.

Plan has supported the center.

“At the beginning we faced problems with the lectures because the girls were too shy to talk in front of the men,” Noha said. “But, after attending several sessions, the embarrassment dissolved.”

Girls, like Amel, are advocating against FGM.

Determined 9-year-old Amel, who refused to be circumcised after a friend bled to death, is another strong advocate against FGM in her community.

“I want to eradicate FGM from my village because it has many harmful effects on society,” she said. “The sessions are very useful, but as a community we need to spread the message. They need to be held frequently to expand and raise awareness worldwide.”

Male volunteers are also educating their community about the dangerous practice.

It’s not just women and girls who are raising awareness about the harmful impact of FGM in Tamouh. Male volunteers like Ahmed Fathy take any opportunity to spread the message among their peers.

“I don’t have enough money to organize awareness lectures myself,” he said. “But, I bring up FGM in places people meet at, such as a coffee shop or family gatherings, and start discussions on Facebook and other social media.”

Dr. Magdy Helmy Kedees has been a respected and outspoken voice against female circumcision for over 20 years.

Dr. Magdy Helmy Kedees, a respected and outspoken voice against female circumcision for more than 20 years, has also delivered awareness sessions to Tamouh residents. He says nongovernment organizations and the government failed to reach out to the right groups when advocacy efforts against FGM started to pick up pace in the mid-1990s.

He regrets that boys and men were not engaged sooner.

“We missed that we needed to communicate with men to convey our messages,” he said. “Later, we discovered that the best investment is to reach out to the new generations.”

Community and government agency cooperation will be vital in order to end the practice of female genital mutilation.

Bayoumy Mostafa, law student and chair of Plan’s youth advisory group for Tamouh and Giza, agrees, and is optimistic FGM can be stamped out in the region.

“We can succeed in eradicating FGM in 10 years, but we need the community and government agencies to cooperate with each other,” he said.

The trauma from FGM can last for years.

For girls like 13-year-old Mariam, who have already been “purified,” FGM is still a traumatic experience. Things could have been different had her family known about the negative effects.

“I knew nothing about the harmful impact,” Mariam says. “Only what my mother told me.”

After her circumcision, she was so upset that she couldn’t bring herself to speak to her mother for almost a month.

“I was crying all the time,” she said.

Mothers are protecting their children from FGM.

Salwa decided to let her three daughters avoid circumcision, resisting pressure from her mother-in-law.

“I had a horrible experience when I was circumcised at 9,” she said. “I was injured, bleeding, and hurting a lot.”

Not everyone is convinced about the dangers of FGM.

But not everyone is so easily convinced of the harmful consequences of FGM.

Mohamed maintains that his daughter will be circumcised in four years, at the age of 11. Citing traditions, religion, cleanliness, and chastity, he sees no downsides to the practice.

“There is no negative impact,” he said. “Any negative impact is the doctor’s fault.”

Girls who have succumbed to the practice of FGM are educating their communities about the dangerous practice.

For the village’s other daughters, there is genuine hope that FGM will eventually be eradicated altogether. Those who have already succumbed to the practice will remain saddled with its effects for the rest of their lives, but by selflessly sharing their experiences and working with others to raise awareness, they are helping Tamouh’s next generation of girls to one day make their own choices – creating less painful customs and traditions along the way.

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