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A Survivor's Plea to Women to Join the Fight Against Female Genital Mutilation in the US

A Survivor's Plea to Women to Join the Fight Against Female Genital Mutilation in the US

F. A. Cole | is a survivor of FGM, an award-winning humanitarian, author, speaker and anti-FGM activist.

The pleasures in life are enjoyed through our senses.

Imagine the diminished experience you would have going to your favorite coffeehouse or restaurant. The sights, smells and tastes are vital ingredients in maximizing the experience.

Well, imagine the horror of diminished sexual pleasure with the vital organ of the clitoris removed. It is removed through the inhumane practice of female genital mutilation (FGM).

Sadly, there are about 200 million women and girls living in different parts of the world without a clitoris and most of whom may never experience an orgasm nor the fullness of sexual pleasure. This is a global tragedy that has no respect for borders and can be found right here in these United States of America.

My young world was turned upside down on the evening of August 1, 1984. My step mother convinced Papa that it was for our good, not giving us the option to say "no."

"You are going to be made into women" they said. So at age 11, I was subjected to the worst form of sexual violence—female genital mutilation. I was taken from my home to a strange place and the horrific act "transformed me into a woman."

I was instructed by strange women to strip and sit under the tree. Blindfolded, with my hands tied behind my back, I was led to the "bed of death."

Sitting on my tiny chest was a very large woman who held in her hand an item she used to restructure my sexuality and turn my world upside down. About four others spread my legs apart and held me down. The one who sat on my chest sexually assaulted me as she searched with her fingers for my clitoris. With an impaired vision (due to alcohol consumption before the initiation) and bloody hands, she began amputating my clitoris using a razor blade. I screamed and tried to push her off but I was overpowered. I then was gagged to silence my screams.

At age 11, I didn't know what a clitoris was nor its functionality but I felt betrayed, hurt and violated.

Almost 34 years later, I still hurt psychologically, sexually and physically. Not a day goes by that I'm not reminded of the evening of August 1, 1984—the evening my clitoris was amputated in the name of culture. The evening my childhood was snatched from me. The evening I cried for my mum but she couldn't come to my aid because she is not part of this demonic cult. The evening Papa, a devout Catholic, paid strangers to torture me for life. The evening I felt scared and alone—the evening of August 1, 1984.

It's a miracle I didn't go into cardiac arrest. It's a miracle I not only survived FGM but gained courage to speak out against this cult. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, feelings of insecurities with my femininity (particularly the appearance of my vagina) and nightmares are some of the issues I battle with daily.

I am currently in therapy. I decided to take back my dignity, power and freedom from cultural oppression and use my voice for those who can't—those who fear they'll be ostracized by their communities or put to death.

I have been sharing my story on a growing number of platforms. I often ask why I haven't heard of a march against female genital mutilation by feminists. Is this due to unawareness or a callous political calculus?

The majority of victims are from immigrant communities or in the shadows of shame. FGM is clearly a control issue, and given the blooming "Me Too" era, why is the support for FGM survivors not grafted into a whole cloth campaign for supporting women and girls of all walks of life who need liberation and empowerment?

A part of me wants to rail against the inattention to this issue, but it could be perceived to have racial overtones. However, I pause instead and educate and invite all women to a unity of cause.

FGM is not a religious issue; it is not a cultural issue nor is it a traditional issue. FGM is a control issue that mutes voices and multiplies shame and suffering.

Women are natural nurturers so, let us not be selective in our nurturing. It is time we all come together to fully support our girls and women who are in pain.

Come dream with me of a day where our little girls will never be scared by this vile practice—a day when we unite across politics, religion, race, and culture to ensure the fullness of our femininity.

F.A. Cole is a survivor of FGM, an award-winning humanitarian, author, speaker and anti-FGM activist. For more information on how to get involved, visit www.facole.org.

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