News / Africa

Publisher Crusades Against Female Genital Mutilation in Africa

Teen-aged girls attend an after-school discussion of female genital mutilation at the Sheik Nuur Primary School in Hargeisa, Somaliland on Feb. 16, 2014.
Teen-aged girls attend an after-school discussion of female genital mutilation at the Sheik Nuur Primary School in Hargeisa, Somaliland on Feb. 16, 2014.
As the number of deaths of young girls subjected to the traditional African practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) increases, the population of village practitioners grows even bigger. One of Liberia’s outspoken opponents of the practice is Angela Peabody.

Peabody is a Liberian American novelist and magazine publisher who challenges her U.S. audiences by writing and speaking without ambiguity about the African cultural tradition of removing the clitoris and sometimes the labia from a young girl’s genitals.

Her target audience is Americans. “They think that it is an obsolete thing,” Peabody said in a VOA interview. “… but as you and I speak at this very moment, there are 8,000 girls in Africa that are being cut. Their genitals are being cut and mutilated.

Once they get over the initial shock that FGM is still practiced in many African countries, “they are just appalled at the fact that it is being done to little girls, to anyone for that matter.”

They then ask Peabody, ‘What can we do?’

“They want to help," she says. "They want to see it stop.”

Stop the cutting tradition

Peabody says, “My organization and I have made it our passion to make sure to do something about that, to raise awareness in the United States and around the world so that we can help end it.” Her organization is an offshoot of a magazine she has published for eight years and a book she recently published. She tells me that the two are however being kept separate since the organization is non-profit, unlike the magazine which is for profit.

Liberia’s patriarchal culture is exacerbated by traditional practices such as FGM, Peabody says, as a means of preserving “what is called a tradition handed down by the ancestors.” She dares to tread the dangerous path of ending a practice deeply rooted in the traditions of Liberia and many other African cultures.
 
Eva Flomo's interview with Angela Peabody
Eva Flomo's interview with Angela Peabodyi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

Peabody’s goal is to chronicle what African women and girls experience, the impact of the medically dangerous practice and explain the consequences women must endure for the rest of their lives. She wants to shine a bright light on a violent practice that threatens the futures of thousands of women in Africa.

Following years of reading about FGM across Africa and other parts of the world, Peabody decided to publish a magazine, Global Woman Magazine, in 2006. The maiden issue was devoted to an interview with Somali activist Waris Arie who opened Peabody’s eyes to the long-term consequences of the practice of genital cutting. Peabody learned from that meeting that going through FGM for the African woman was like “carrying an unnecessary burden” that for some leads to death.

Starting a women’s magazine with a narrow focus

The purpose of the magazine was to bring together women from diverse backgrounds to inspire and share their stories. The magazine turned out to be the major vehicle for a crusade against the continuing and abusive practice of FGM.
 
Angela Peabody began publishing her magazine in 2006. (Courtesy Angela Peabody)Angela Peabody began publishing her magazine in 2006. (Courtesy Angela Peabody)
x
Angela Peabody began publishing her magazine in 2006. (Courtesy Angela Peabody)
Angela Peabody began publishing her magazine in 2006. (Courtesy Angela Peabody)
She believes that taking the fight against FGM to a new level with her book published in the United States, she will garner the much-needed support in the United States to curb the practice at home.

Her latest endeavor to highlight the FGM terror is a book called “When the Games Froze”, a fictionalized narrative of the life of Nana Nkuku, a Ghanaian émigré to the United States to go to school. Her problem is how to hide her secret; that she won’t date men because she was cut when she was five.

A student of West Africa’s cutters

Peabody has studied the practice in West Africa where FGM is prevalent.
Adopting a model she found in Egypt, Senegal and Cameroon, Peabody wants to sit and talk with the women who practice FGM and the men who use it for political gains. She wants to build institutions to provide alternative livelihoods for the practitioners and better education for victims of FGM.

She remembers a female judge in Cameroon who invited those who practice cutting in their area to replace their blades with something else to do. “Because, keep in mind, these women who perform the practice, that’s all they know how to do to make a living. They get paid by the parents to perform the practice on the daughters and we don’t want to take bread out of their mouths.

“You can teach them how to do other things so that they can make a living in other ways than just cutting little girls.”

The lessons Peabody learned in Liberia

For over a decade, the publisher has interviewed victims of FGM in Liberia and abroad in order to better tell the challenges and tragedies of the FGM story.

But events from her Liberian past have forced her to reflect on the violent nature of life for African women. Her younger sister, Rose, was beaten to death by her husband.
Her focus on FGM came later, as she remembered a happy 10-year-old friend who – as the saying goes in Liberia – “went to the bush.”

Angela discovered the problem of FGM at an early age but did not fully understand how it could affect the lives of women and girls; therefore she couldn’t do anything about it.

She tells the story of her 10-year-old peer and playmate in the suburban town of Marshall, who suddenly disappeared for over a year without any news of her whereabouts. When she appears, her physique changes, she becomes less engaging for her young age and secretive in every move. What had happened to her, little Angela wondered?

It was not until after several months of horning her investigative whims that she realized that her best friend had been taken “to the bush”, a common inference of the practice in Liberia. At that tender age, her friend had lost her innocence, her happy-go-lucky lifestyle typical of children and a countenance shrouded in fear.

Discovery of a women’s mission

FGM was a forbidden subject in Liberia when Peabody was growing up and it was one topic she could not imagine would become the focus of her adult life. Her father was a lawyer, farmer and legislator while her mother served as the first female mayor of Marshall-west of the Political capital Monrovia, Liberia in the late 40’s.

Angela takes after her mother’s humanitarian characteristics, and believes that sharing people’s problems makes solving it even easier. But she had no political affiliations while growing up in Liberia and didn’t seem eager to run for public office there. She fled the country with her family during the 1980 coup. She was 28. She found shelter in the United States during Liberia’s civil upheaval in the early 90’s. She returned briefly to Liberia as a mother of two boys to bury her mother in 1984.  
   
As a Christian, Peabody says God created a woman in perfection and therefore did not require anyone removing her genitals as a means of “preparing her for a man.” So, she keeps asking others the same question: Why alter that which God has created?

Taking the message back to Liberia

“Being a woman myself and then later becoming a mother, I realized that this is wrong. There is no need to do it. It is not needed. I understand if they have to circumcise the boys; I had my boys circumcised -- both of them, but not a woman, a woman doesn’t have to be circumcised. There is no need for it.”

The conviction was reinforced when Peabody met women who told stories about how they were circumcised and had to run away from their villages to avoid arranged marriages to men three times their age.

“I have not had the opportunity to go and speak in person before audiences in Africa, unfortunately. But I do intend to do that in the future … and I know that it’s going to be the most difficult thing to do in the whole campaign.”

Peabody says she is personally committed to being remembered as the woman who surmounted the odds to join the fight to save the genitals of little girls.   
 
Eva Flomo is a VOA intern and a Hubert Humphrey Fulbright Fellow and radio producer for the UN Mission to Liberia.

You May Like

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Video US Landmark Pushes Endangered Species

People gathered in streets, on rooftops in Manhattan to see image highlights that covered 33 floors of Empire State Building More

World’s Widest Suspension Bridge Being Built Over Bosphorus

Once built, Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge will span 2 kilometers with about 1.5 kilometers over water, and will be longest suspension bridge in world carrying rail system More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: eusebio manuel vestias from: Portugal
June 03, 2014 10:45 AM
Give the Women liberty right Africa

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs