I was only six years old, and my sister was four. I remember us playing and my aunt walking in. She pinched our cheeks, smiled and said, “tomorrow is a big day for you girls.”
I had no idea what she meant. All we cared about was fun and games. Then my mother reiterated what my aunt said, “tomorrow you become women”.
I didn’t know how to respond; I just looked at my mother’s beaming eyes and smiled. It sounded like something great was in store. I started getting excited about it. My sister and I just couldn’t wait for this mystery treat.
Mum woke us up and dressed us early, as always. Our aunt was bright-eyed and singing as she held our hands. Mum said they were taking us to see a special lady who was going to make us women. My sister and I exchanged toothy smiles; the suspense was making us all giddy on the inside.
My aunt held our hands and ushered us into the house of an old woman. The woman spoke to us warmly, but there was something about her look that was a bit eerie. At this point Mum and Aunty and other women were singing; music filled the air.
I went in first. The lady asked me to lie down. I lay on my back and with a single swoop my panties were off, my legs were spread and I felt a part of me I had never felt before. I came to discover it was my clitoris; it was being yanked. I felt a piercing pain. I screamed calling for my Mama, squirming as the woman tried to keep me calm. Mama and all the other women singing had gone.
After the cutting came the stitching. I was in so much pain I almost passed out.
We were left alone in this woman’s home where she cared for us, treating our wounds and managing the bleeding. Peeing was painful for what seemed a lifetime. It took a month or two for us to heal. We weren’t alone; there were other young girls with us. Moving was so hard, and so uncomfortable. It was difficult to understand why this had happened.
I am in my 20’s now, and I feel a sense of shame talking about it and reliving that day. Yet at the same time I understand that female genital cutting is our tradition.
I am torn. It is wrong, the act is wrong. It hurts us and it’s dangerous and I do have concerns about the day I will have my first sexual encounter with my husband.
But at the same time, this is what has been passed on by generations. I don’t want my daughters having to go through this. But when I cease to do this, what will I pass on to them from my ancestors as an important message and path for womanhood? I really don’t know.
*Amina is not her real name