By Manu Singh, Barefoot College ENRICHE Master Trainer

Ending my workshop today left me with a mixed feeling of happiness and sadness.

We were discussing the female reproductive system, a workshop where our rural women from different parts of the world, speaking different languages, take part to discuss what they know about their reproductive system. When it came time to talk about pleasure and about the sensual part, the clitoris, all but two participants responded that they enjoy making love to their husbands. These two said that it is always very painful for them. They explained the reason was because they had undergone the pain of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) or Female Genital Cutting.

The tradition is carried out by a ‘community circumciser’ who removes various parts of the female genitalia until nothing but a small hole is left for the passage of urine and menstrual fluid. The vagina is eventually opened for intercourse and opened further for childbirth. 

The practice is rooted in gender inequality, attempts to control women’s sexuality, and ideas about ‘purity’, ‘modesty’ and ‘beauty’. And those who will try to save their daughters from this procedure will have to face social exclusion.

Everyone in the class was hearing about this tradition for the first time and I did my best to explain it in such a way that did not let them feel hurt or ashamed. It is a deeply engrained tradition and we are always sensitive to that. Luckily; they had an opportunity to discuss it with women outside their society (and outside their continent). I was stunned to see the trust they had in us, to be capable of sharing it with me and their classmates.

‘Martial Island mamas naming parts of the female and male .’

It was rewarding for all of us to break through dogmas and taboos. Together we realized what affects our health while keeping our traditional sentiments into consideration.

In the end, the seriousness of the issue was understood, the women acted logically and not culturally about their genital situation. All students left class happy, uplifted and even pulled my cheeks before leaving. 

Barefoot’s ENRICHE Curriculum workshops often reveal unexpected truths faced by the rural world. Different modules within the curriculum provide opportunities for our mamas to embark on empowered journeys for sustainable development. By bringing them together to authenticate rural problems, and see them as global issues too, we proliferate their key role to becoming agents for change.

We’re investing in rural women to gain confidence, skills and the knowledge needed to reach their full potential and meet their aspirations.

Support workshops like these and help us continue to make woman strong, safe, self-reliant, healthy, heard, respected, resilient, courageous and equal. For more information on this program contact program director, Lucie Argelies or donate and support our ongoing programs and commitments. 


Manu Singh, Barefoot College ENRICHE Master Trainer