News

    African Activism Against Female Circumcision Is Focus of New Film

    African Activism Against Female Circumcision Is Focus of New Film
    African Activism Against Female Circumcision Is Focus of New Film

    Multimedia

    A new film focuses on the fight by African activists against an ancient practice that is still performed each year on millions of girls: female circumcision, often known as FGM, or female genital mutilation. Opponents call it a human rights abuse that destroys a woman's ability to enjoy sex, is sometimes fatal, and frequently leads to lifelong pain and disability.

    <!-- IMAGE -->

    “I was forcefully cut when I was 14 years,” says Kenyan anti-FGM activist Agnes Pareyio. “I tried to resist; everybody was calling me a coward. There was a lot of peer pressure on me that forced me to prove to them that I was not a coward.  But I hated it. So, I grew up hating it and made sure that not my daughter, not anybody who can listen to me, will undergo FGM.”

    The village-by-village effort of education and persuasion that Pareyio and others like her in Somalia, Tanzania, Burkina Faso and Mali have taken on is the subject of "Africa Rising: The Grassroots Movement to End Female Genital Mutilation," made by Paula Heredia for Equality Now, a group that works to promote human rights for women.

    The film opens with 14-year-old Mary Solio remembering the day she was cut. "My father decided to marry me off. I told him no, because I wanted to continue with my education,“ Solio says. “They beat me. They removed all my clothes and they beat me nakedly. I ran, but they got me on the way. I cry, but nobody was there in the forest.  I cried but I don't have anybody to turn to. They beat me the same day and they took me to the husband's home."

    <!-- IMAGE -->

    At least 100 million African women and girls have undergone FGM, which involves the removal of all or part of the female genitalia. Sometimes the remaining flesh is stitched closed, a practice called infibulation, leaving only a tiny opening for urination and menstruation, and making intercourse and childbirth painful and hazardous. FGM can cause immediate hemorrhaging and death or a lifetime of pain, disability and severe emotional problems, doctors say.

    Activists fight FGM by pointing out it is not practiced in most Islamic countries, and is not mentioned in the Koran.  In Somalia, where most girls are cut by the age of eight, the film shows anti-FGM activist Hawa Aden Mohamed visiting a classroom. She tells the schoolgirls that God created female organs for a purpose, and so removing them cannot be right.  "People are just trying to change His creation," she says.  The grassroots campaigns also involve reaching out to circumcisers, who are usually illiterate village women, to teach them that FGM is wrong, and to help them find other ways to earn money.

    In 2000, two sisters in Kenya, Edna and Beatrice Kandie, were told by their father that they would soon be circumcised. They sought help from human rights lawyer Ken Wafula, director of the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, who successfully sued to stop the procedure from taking place.

    <!-- IMAGE -->

    At the beginning my father was very hostile, because we took him to court,” Beatrice Kandie shyly tells the filmmakers. “It was the first time. We made history in Kenya by taking our father to court to stop us from being circumcised."

    Although Kenya subsequently outlawed FGM for girls under 18, the practice is still routine there. Girls now sometimes run away from home to avoid it. Agnes Pareyio, a member of the Maasai tribe, founded a safe house for girls, where she teaches girls about other cultural traditions to prepare themselves for womanhood.And she takes the anti-FGM campaign from village to village, explaining the law to parents and to circumcisers alike.

    “We tell them, ‘Are you aware that you are breaking the law, and can easily go to jail for that?” she said in an interview. “And at times we tell them, ‘Are you aware that you expose your naked hands to people? You don’t know whether they have the HIV virus, and it can easily be transmitted to you.’”

    Pareyio was in New York recently to publicize the film. She described how she was considered crazy when she began speaking out against FGM seven years ago. Her husband left her after others said she was trying to spoil their culture, and she raised her four children alone.

    <!-- IMAGE -->

    “In the beginning, it was tough,” Pareyio said. “My life was in danger, because I was trying to break the silence about a culture that was deeply rooted among the people. People believed in it and had never looked at it or even known the dangers, or wanted to talk about it. So, it was like I was crazy, because I was talking about the private part of a woman, which was a taboo in Africa. Nobody can even mention the part that I used to mention when teaching them. But I insisted, because I knew having seen some communities who don’t perform it, I knew that this was just another way of oppressing our women.”

    Now the subject is no longer taboo. “I’m happy now because at least everybody is talking about it openly, compared to those days,” she says. “These days I go to the field, and say ‘Well, I’ve called you here because I want to talk about FGM.’ So, we are moving towards stopping it.” Pareyio also invokes her Maasai culture in explaining why she does not let herself become discouraged by the decades of struggle that she sees ahead. “When you go to war, always be faithful [that you will succeed],” she says. “I have faith in me that one day women in the Maasai community will be free from the cut."

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.