Over 50 inspiring girls make up the Uncut Girls’ Club, which meets in a Plan International-supported school in Bonazuria, Ethiopia. Club members are educated on the consequences of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). From there, they spread the message to their families and communities, empowering their peers and paving the way to ending this harmful practice. These are some of their stories!
“We want to help save other girl from FGM” - Lenteta, 16
“In the past, my girlfriends and I used to chat about when and how our FGM would take place and what kind of a ceremony would follow. Nowadays, we talk about what we can do to end FGM.
“Because FGM is a part of our history and a respected tradition, it was something we girls were looking forward to and wanted to go through – even though we did not know exactly what it meant.”
When Plan International set up the Uncut Girls’ Club at Lenteta’s school, she was not happy about it, as she didn’t think it was a good idea to stop FGM. However, when Plan staff explained to her class the consequences of FGM, she changed her mind and decided to join the Uncut Girls’ Club.
“When my friends and I decided to save ourselves from this monstrosity, we also decided we would have to help save other girls.”
“We are proud we have not been cut” - Dorite, 14
Dorite, 14, has not undergone FGM. Her parents made the decision to spare all their daughters from FGM even before Plan International started spreading information in our village.
Tradition is not always that easy to change, however. Two of her older sisters decided to have the procedure of their own free will. They were afraid that, unless they were cut, they would be bullied and no one would want to marry them. They took on odd jobs to collect the money for the procedure, and the traditional circumciser in their village performed FGM with a razor blade. Their parents were furious and her sisters lived with a neighbor for some time.
“Following our sisters’ example, my little sister and I began planning to go see the circumciser without our parents’ permission. Everything changed when Plan International started the Uncut Girls’ Club at our school. It is a girls-only club that spreads information about the perils of FGM and encourages girls to speak out against harmful practices in their own communities. Now that we know about it properly, we are proud we have not been cut. We speak about the issue to others in our village and warn parents against cutting their daughters.”
Although she now understands how dangerous FGM is, it is not always easy for her now that everyone knows she and some of her sisters are uncut. When they go to get water from the well or when they are walking to school, people make fun and laugh, claiming that they are not clean or obedient.
Despite the difficulties, Dorite says, “I am proud that I have succeeded in inviting many new members to join the Uncut Girls’ Club. I think that, when I grow up, I could be the first female president of Ethiopia.”
“I dare to speak out about the perils of FGM” - Alem, 13
Alem used to be embarrassed to talk about FGM, because the topic was completely taboo in her community. But through the Uncut Girls’ Club, she has gained the courage to see that there is nothing mysterious or respectable in the topic.
“We have decided to save ourselves from this cruel tradition and help other girls too. Now there are so many of us, I am no longer embarrassed. I dare to speak out about the perils of FGM even at the market or church.
“Mostly, I educate my friends who are not yet members of the Uncut Girls’ Club. When other girls ask why the club members are uncut, we tell them that FGM can cause bleeding, pains, and complications during pregnancy and birth, and it can also spread HIV.”
“I used to respect traditional circumcisers. Now I question their knowledge and skills” - Weyinitu, 12
Weyinitu’s FGM date had already been set when Plan’s project against FGM launched at her school. When she became educated about the consequences of FGM, there was only one thought in her mind: call off the FGM procedure! Fortunately, her parents listened to the new information, and they understood and supported her.
“Before, I used to respect the traditional circumcisers, but now I have started to question their knowledge and skills. For example, it is extremely dangerous for them to be using the same, unclean razor blade for cutting more than one girl. That is exactly how HIV spreads.”
Weyinitu goes on to say, “If my future husband wants to have a cut bride, I will refuse to have FGM. I will try to explain to him the consequences of FGM. He can marry me only if he understands my decision.”
“Thanks to the Uncut Girls’ Club, my mother avidly opposes FGM” - Dirshaye, 13
“I know a girl who suffered because of her FGM,” Dirshaye recounts. “She was cut when she was 9. There was a lot of blood, and the girl could not go to the hospital because her family was scared they would be punished. FGM is prohibited by Ethiopian law and the people risked being fined.”
Dirshaye’s friend was treated by the traditional circumciser, with traditional methods. She had a bad infection and was in bed for over a month. She is still in a lot of pain, even though she is 14 now. She also has a scar that will complicate future childbirth.
For Dirshaye, her friend serves as an example. “When I heard of her experience, I decided I would not go through the same. My mother was puzzled by my decision and asked me why I did not want to be a part of this respected tradition. When I told her the things I have learned at school and at the Uncut Girls’ Club, she began to fully support me. Now, my mother avidly opposes FGM.”
“FGM used to feel intimidating, but this club has given me the courage to say no” - Birtukan, 15
The Uncut Girls’ Club gave Birtukan the opportunity to change her attitude. “Now I want to offer others the same chance. In the past, everything connected to FGM felt intimidating, but the club has given me the courage to say no.”
Birtukan says that the club increased the self-confidence of members in many ways. As they have the courage to speak out on a sensitive matter, they also now speak out in class and answer just as eagerly as the boys.
“I think that the appreciation for girls and women in our society will grow more, the more active and better informed girls become. In the past, parents would rather just send their boys to school, but this is starting to change as a result of Plan International’s work.
“When I grow up, I want to have a daughter. And she will not be cut.”