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 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.
Typically carried out by a traditional circumciser using a blade, FGM can be conducted from days after birth to puberty and beyond. Most girls are cut before the age of five. The ritual of cutting or removal of some or all of the external female genitalia. In this last procedure, known as infibulation, a small hole is left for the passage of urine and menstrual fluid; the vagina is 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.
It was rewarding for all of us, to break through dogmas and taboos in order to realize 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 College believes in the key role women play in improving the overall quality of life within rural villages. The ENRICHE program invests in rural women as agents of sustainable change. It gives them the opportunity to embark on an empowerment journey; a journey to gain the confidence, skills and knowledge they need to reach their full potential and to meet their aspirations.
We believe every woman should be strong, safe, self-reliant, healthy, heard, respected, resilient, courageous and equal. No exceptions. Become a part of our college. Donate and support our ongoing programs and commitments.